by Eivind Skjellum
Often men in movies are portrayed as somewhat incomplete characters – the fumbling dad in the family comedy, the hard-ass action hero, the angst-ridden sensitive New Age ‘guy’ and so on. What chance does a teenager boy, moving into manhood, have of becoming a Jason Statham-type? (Not that I think it is even desirable)
What ‘Secondhand Lions’ shows is how men are complex characters, battling their own demons, protecting those in their care – albeit somewhat reluctantly at first – while hanging on to what is worthwhile to pass on to the next generation.
The story centres on Walter, of ‘coming -of-age’ -age, and how he settles into an initially uneasy but ultimately warm and inspiring relationship with his two elderly uncles. These two men have a lived a full life, and their history has profoundly shaped who they are. Living with the his uncles and hearing about of the adventures of their youth Walter learns about strength and sensitivity, the dichotomy and the tension of what mature manhood is. This duality can be in fact so difficult to live with that it could be argued that Hub and Garth, the uncles, each show a predominant aspect of the balancing act.
‘Secondhand Lions’ provides an entertaining (it is a family favourite) yet a thought-provoking and a challenging story of manhood – one life ready to start on the journey, and two lives, having a full life behind them, still looking forward to the next stage.
Five stars out of five.
by Eivind Skjellum
Last night, I facilitated an evening workshop on the King Archetype with my friend and Brother, Pål Christian Buntz. En route to the workshop, I felt somewhat flat and hollow. I am familiar with that feeling. What I yearn for then is being filled in some way, to “feel seen and embraced for exactly who I am”. And that means, I need to feel blessed.
The need to feel blessed is, I believe, a bedrock need for all human beings. When we grow up, we need to feel blessed by Mother and Father – demi-gods that only the passing of time reveals as imperfect human beings with their own set of challenges. And yet, no matter how mortal, if the level of blessing that I needed was not provided for by them, my blessing tank will need to be filled by others. The person for whom that is true will set out on a journey to seek out others who will provide those essential drops of blessing water. Some people spend their whole lives finding but droplets. They surrender power over their lives and look for that one person who will make everything just right, in the way Mother or Father never could. We know how that story goes…
The good news is that there are good people in this world – be they elders, loving and wise peers or a good partner – who will help fill up that blessing tank outside of the context of co-dependency. And yet, this afternoon, all those people who have contributed so immeasurably to my life could not help keep at bay this subtle, but pervasive longing for something more, something richer and fuller.
Four hours later, the workshop was over and I felt full, open and warm. Many people I care about attended and in the time I held space for them and facilitated their exploration of King energy, I was more focused on blessing than on being blessed. And this dispelled my flatness and hollowness completely.
There can be only one explanation for this – when I bless others, I get blessed.
Embracing the awkward
Now, the challenge that many have is that blessing others – telling them truly good things – feels really awkward. It seems to me that many are so used to minimizing their own worth that they simply won’t consider themselves worthy of blessing another human being. Instead, they will remain negative, masochistic or self-involved, and hope that one day, their blessing tank will magically fill.
What gets in the way of addressing this challenge is often people’s sense of integrity. It seems to me that there is a danger to conflate integrity with maintaining habitual patterns (I saw that in myself first by the way . The weird logic that a lot of people end up running their lives by then goes something like this “I’ve felt empty and depressed for most of my life. I have never felt like I had anything to contribute to others. I am not worthy of that. So for me to go around caring for people all of a sudden would be totally inauthentic and out of integrity.”
Now, I’m not saying that this thinking is completely without merit: To put on a happy-mask in an attempt to bless others is futile and incredibly draining. But the truth is that many of us have done the requisite work to authentically bless others. And what this evening reminded me of is that even when I believe I need to be blessed, I can choose instead to bless. I can go against the current of my own habitual patterns – which tells me I must wait for others to make things right – and bless others even in moments when it does feel awkward, when it does feel out of integrity. For feelings are as fleeting as clouds in the sky and if it takes but one little move against what feels like “me” to dispel days of brooding dark clouds, is it not worth it?
Bless another today!
I was reminded yesterday that instead of surrendering to the pain of my heart like I often do when I feel the need for blessing, I can tap into the vast energy of the archetypal King. I can open that channel and be nourished and fully served by it, as its gifts flow through me and into the eyes and hearts of another. For as the archetypal King pours through me into Other, he blesses me in full measure. It is a win-win situation.
Blessing another may not feel natural, but try it.
Daigo Kobayashi lives with his wife Mika in Tokyo. He plays the cello in a struggling symphonic orchestra. As the movie opens, the orchestra where he plays for a living is disbanded by the owner. Daigo’s dreams are crushed. He was going to be a famous musician and the concert halls of the world were going to be the stage of his life and his marriage with Mika. Those temples of high culture seem far away now.
A new job
Daigo’s mother is dead. His father is gone, having run off with a waitress when Daigo was but a child. He is for all intents and purposes an orphan and his childhood home in Sakata northwest of Tokyo stands abandoned. It is a quaint house, surrounded by cherry trees, perched on a piece of land above a babbling stream. His mother lived alone there after Daigo moved out. The house was his only inheritance when she died two years previously.
Daigo sells his expensive cello to stabilize their finances for the next leg of their journey – a new life in his childhood home – and feels relief as he does it. Maybe the dream he had pursued wasn’t really his dream after all, he tells us in a monologue. This is a pivotal moment in his life, and he rightly recognizes it as such.
When a man finds himself stuck in a dead-end life, he is wasting his birthright. We are put here on this planet, I believe, to find our true gift and courageously give that to the world. Every man yearns deep down to leave a mark. I think I know that much about you, brother! I don’t think the gift that will leave that mark necessarily needs to be our livelihood though. But if our work is draining us of energy and makes us daydream of a life that isn’t ours, we should course-correct. Many men reach that point of recognition, but few are those who act. For stepping into that unknown is a scary thing, especially if he is the main breadwinner of the family (in certain conditions, it would even be irresponsible).
Men have always, it seems, sacrificed their inner yearning for depth, vitality and meaning in favor of a stable job that puts food on the table. But hearts of men close when their life experience turns certain, controlled, measured. So how do we make a living and live with open, beating, passionate hearts? Many, if not all, men will struggle with this question in their lifetime (I do – and I haven’t even started a family!). And finding a satisfying answer is always a process of risk and challenge.
Daigo is lucky in a way – fate intervenes and forces him into a time of transformation. It is as if the universe conspires to give him what he needs to find a truer path, when he himself has neglected the seeking (note that he only realizes after selling the cello that he was chasing the wrong dream). This process, when it arises in our lives, often signals an entry into the sacred time of the Magician Archetype. If we resist, we will suffer. But if we embrace the mystery of life’s unfolding and learn to die while we still live, we will be in for a ride that will almost certainly change our lives for the better.
A hieroglyphic job ad about “departures” takes Daigo to a red house on a hill where large wood coffins line the back wall of the front office. NK Agent is a company which has made dead people its business. The owner Sasaki prepares them beautifully and gracefully for their final journey as if he were an artist. Through his work, the bereaved uncover deep and forgotten feelings of grief, love and joy. This is the gentle and beautiful ritual of departure that has become his craft. And since business is reasonably good, he needs a right hand man.
Death as a doorway to feeling
When the story plays out, Daigo’s new boss has been widowed for nine years. When she died, he prepared her body and sent her off. When he shares this story with Daigo amongst the thick foliage of his upstairs living quarters, we understand there was a profound depth of love and feeling between the two. I’m reminded of the universal rule that suggests that our true gifts to the world shall emerge through our wounds. Sasaki has embraced his loss and transmuted the grief into a gift he can pass on to others.
Daigo’s first days on the job serve as a baptism by fire and he learns soon enough that dead people smell. He is challenged beyond his comfort zone, but something remarkable starts happening to him: He realizes, as if it were a surprise, that he is surrounded by death. When Mika brings home a dead bird one day, he feels ill. A wave of emotion takes him as he appears to tune in, perhaps for the first time in his life, to the frailty and preciousness of life. Perhaps he sees that we are all so fragile, so beautiful in our infinite vulnerability. He embraces his wife and starts kissing her with tender passion.
Later that night, he pulls out his old childhood cello, with which he performed for his parents in his early years. As he plays, memories of his father, whose face he cannot even remember, pour in. He remembers that they gave each other a “rock letter” by the riverside. A rock letter, his father taught him, was a way of communication used before words emerged. It would tell the recipient something about the mood of the sender based on its weight, shape and surface. He remembers that he gave his father a small, smooth stone back then. In return, his father gave him a rough and heavy rock.
Something in Daigo is coming out of hibernation. His naïveté is starting to give way to a deeper feeling landscape.
Standing firm in the face of challenge
Death is a taboo subject in Japan, so much so that the director allegedly feared for how the movie would be received upon its release. So when the people in his life discover what he does for a living, they react with disgust. His wife even screams at him that he is unclean before she leaves him and travels back to Tokyo. But Daigo has found a calling now; he has seen how Sasaki’s work heals the wounds of the bereaved and brings more love into the world. He has seen the grace with which he carries out the ritual. He has learned that there is beauty to be found even in death. He describes it with these words in one scene:
One grown cold
restored to beauty for all eternity
this was done with a calmness, a precision
and above all a gentle affection.
At the final parting
sending the dead on their way
everything done peacefully and beautifully.
Daigo is alone now. He only has his work, his boss and the office lady. Surrounded by people who are mortified by the concept of death, he finds himself in a form of purgatory. “Demons are eating his flesh” yet he presses on. His heart is in his work now. That is all he needs to endure.
Our twisted relationship to death
The way we relate to death in the world today is very unnatural. I know that to be true for the Western world. This movie tells me that it is true for the Eastern as well. Losing touch with the wisdom and gratitude inherent in contemplating our deaths has a huge cost: We forget that we are finite, here for but a short time. And with the arrogance inherent in forgetting our finitude, we lose the basic humility and gratitude required for living a fulfilling life on this splendid, little rock.
But what can a normal man do when there is such pressure on him to be happy-go-lucky, to shit diamonds for breakfast and manifest heavenly mansions out of thin air for dinner? All while smiling, laughing, beaming success and having not a worry in the world. Well, he must become a courageous man. Because it takes great courage to shed the facade and allow the grief and wildness that is inherent in the depths of us to emerge in an authentic way in his daily life. The mature man has access to his feeling body and there is so much repressed feeling in today’s society.
For a world entranced by trends, fashions, and reality TV, the “wild man love” that is lived openly in the truly courageous man looks way too much like the heavy dark of death and strange, hairy creatures that live under the ground. Who wants to get soil stuck under their finger nails when they can get the latest in manicures on special offer down the road and look splendid to their friends?
But lest we embrace that life is a series of deaths and understand that the key to living well is dying well, we will never be truly happy. Consumerist culture is an empty promise. It delivers only fleeting moments of joy in an ocean of half-life. Most of us feel hollow and miserable. And who are we kidding anyway? In the depth of our hearts and souls, we know the truth: Something is seriously wrong about our culture.
Letting go at the side of his dead father
One day, a telegram arrives at Daigo’s door. His father has died. Daigo’s trials have all been presented him, it may seem, to prepare him for the most pivotal of them all – letting his father back into his heart. Ever since he ran off, Daigo has carried fierce resentment against him. He is now committed to not forgive. Fortunately, his wife is now back in his life, thanks to the beautiful ritual he performed for the sweet woman who ran the local bath. Mika has seen first-hand the beauty inherent in a graceful departure. Mika is back and Daigo has passed the test.
He finds himself at his father’s side somewhat reluctantly. His heart is closed – who is this sad, lonely man who lies on the floor before him? He doesn’t even recognize him! Then he starts carrying out the ritual of departure. As he works on the hands, stiff and cold with rigor mortis, something falls to the floor. It is the rock he gave his dad when he was little.
Daigo’s feeling body comes online like a great wave. His father’s last thought was of him. His father must have loved him! But life happened and feelings of shame and regret came between them. In that very moment, I know that a huge reservoir of feeling and power that was previously inaccessible to Daigo opens up. As he washes his dad, tears stream down his face. He forgives – and he loves. This is a good moment to remember that it is impossible for any man to stand up fully in his own power and beauty without finding peace in the part of his heart that holds the imprints of Dad. Daigo holds up the rock to the pregnant belly of his wife Mika as they smile to each other. Something is healed there – in the midst of the circle of life.
Departures is a wise and beautiful movie about life’s big questions. It is a movie about art: Music connects all cultures in a way similar to death and Daigo could take to the art of departure more easily because he was a musician. It is also a movie about mentorship: Sasaki opens Daigo’s heart and helps him reconnect with his own core truth in a way that empowers him to find his calling and forgive his dad. But most of all, it is a movie about life. It reminds us gently of the invisible cords that connect us, of the petty little things that keep us apart, of the vulnerability of life and humankind, and of the healing, life-giving power of true grief. In that, I sense that it beckons us to get more intimate with each other, to go beyond fear and judgments in order to heed the eternal call of the Lover archetype: Love one another today. Tomorrow may never come.
Here’s food for your Lover archetype. Nature is magnificent.
by Eivind Skjellum
No warm bosoms in the Royal Palace
The best and most important scenes of “The King’s Speech” feature speech therapist Lionel and king to be Bertie (aka Prince Albert) alone in some form of conversation. One of my most favourite of these scenes arrive after Bertie’s dad King George V has died. Bertie comes to Lionel’s eccentric-looking office in a damp London basement for support. At this point, they have already been working together for a while.
Lionel has accepted Bertie’s terms to not talk about any “personal nonsense”, yet made it clear that his demand will allow him to deal only with the surface of the problem. “That’s sufficient,” his wife Elizabeth says in a way that makes me laugh; the enormous emotional suppression of the English Royal family is here made funny.
But now, Bertie’s pain is huge, his desire for release greater still, and his trust for Lionel sufficient to enter into “personal nonsense” willingly.
Bertie has not flourished in the suffocating emotional atmosphere of the Royal Palace. We learn that Bertie didn’t see his parents much growing up, only for the “daily viewing”. His mother, an emotionally shut down woman, did not relate to him as such – the maternal duties were tended by a nanny, a seriously nasty woman by the sound of it, who would pinch him and withhold food.
Knowing the enormous need a boy has for his mother in the forming years, we can understand how desperate must Bertie’s need for intimacy and closeness be. To take a boy from his mother’s warm bosom as a child is tantamount to torture. That boy needs the safety and intimacy of Mommy to have a fighting chance to one day turn into a mature man.*
Bertie uses his right hand as he glues the wings of a model airplane while sharing his heart with Lionel. Yet, as Lionel discovers, he is really left-handed. He was coerced to change that. Left-handers have traditionally been treated with suspicion; they do after all feature largely among artists, those right-brained people that all those who repress their archetypal Lover energy are so scared of. It’s a sad story.
It becomes clear that Bertie has been put through a lot of traumatic conditioning to move him away from his own nature, all the while being virtually without parental presence in his life. That, we understand, is the cause of his stammer. And we understand that all speech impediments have their source in some emotional trauma, for as Lionel assures us “no baby is born with a stammer”.
Bertie discharges a lot of his traumatic material through shaking and breathing exercises. Even more important is perhaps the swearing which he takes up, once he lets himself, in a delightfully gratuitous way (swearing seems to access the Warrior archetype). And then there is the singing. “Try singing it,” says Lionel when the words fail Bertie. “Continual sound will give you flow.” It also gives you access to the Lover archetype, truly a strong one in Bertie (as it is in his Brother David, where it appears as the Addict).
Bertie’s flow – his natural being – has been completely disrupted as a child in one of the world’s most repressed families – the English Royal family.
Finding your voice through the affirming gaze of another
The aptly named “The King’s Speech” is a movie not just about the important speech Bertie – King George VI – delivers to the nation as England enters into war with Germany. It is also not, at its deepest level, really about his speech impediment. No, at its deepest level, it is an allegorical tale about a man’s journey to find his voice (become himself fully) as a prerequisite step for fulfilling his destiny on Earth.
We all carry trauma within ourselves. And this movie gives us some nice techniques to explore to discharge that (swearing, breathing, shaking, singing). But really, the true healer of wounds is the friendship between Lionel and King George VI. It shows us the enormous healing powers of authentic, loving relationship between men. Lionel and Bertie meet as peers and it is in that spirit of Brotherhood that Bertie’s wounds are laid bare. When we men share vulnerably our wounds with other men and find ourselves accepted and loved in spite of them (or truly, quite often, because of them), something heals in us, and we regain some of our voice.
The implications of the deep need for male soul bonding is most beautifully summarized when Lionel has to defend himself against the attempts of the King’s “helpers” to remove him from his duty. Lionel, you see, has no formal credentials. Yet, while he doesn’t have the credentials, he has the wisdom of lived life:
It’s true, I’m not a doctor. And yes, I acted. A bit. I recited in pubs, I taught in schools. When the great war came, all our soldiers were returning to Australia from the front, a lot of them shellshocked. Unable to speak. Somebody said “Lionel, you are very good at all this speech stuff. Do you think you could possibly help these poor buggers?”
I did muscle therapy, exercises, relaxation, but I knew I had to go deeper. Those poor, young blokes had cried out in fear and nobody was listening to them. My job was to give them faith in their own voice and let them know that a friend was listening. That must ring a few bells with you, Bertie?
The emotional weight and wisdom of these words shows us clearly that Lionel doesn’t suffer from the Fisher King wound.
A King’s destiny
Only when Bertie discharges, with Lionel’s help, much of the tensions of past traumas does he start accessing the King Archetype which waited powerful and dormant in his deep Self (his brother did not display the same King potential). And after he delivers the speech that signals the start of Englands trials in World War II, we see how his body and entire demeanor shift; he now walks with confidence, his inner masochist overcome.
Having claimed his voice, through an inner battle that now serves as metaphor for the outer battle which is about to start , and having had his victory observed by the entire British empire, his self-confidence surfaces for the first time and he is ready, against all odds, to take on the duty which has been trust upon him – leading a country at war.
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Translated by Professor D. L. Ashliman. I hope you will enjoy this fairy tale./em>
A father had two sons. The oldest one was clever and intelligent, and knew how to manage everything, but the youngest one was stupid and could neither understand nor learn anything. When people saw him, they said, “He will be a burden on his father!”
Now when something had to be done, it was always the oldest son who had to do it. However, if the father asked him fetch anything when it was late, or even worse, at night, and if the way led through the churchyard or some other spooky place, he would always answer, “Oh, no, father, I won’t go there. It makes me shudder!” For he was afraid.
In the evening by the fire when stories were told that made one’s flesh creep, the listeners sometimes said, “Oh, that makes me shudder!” The youngest son would sit in a corner and listen with the others, but he could not imagine what they meant.
“They are always saying, ‘It makes me shudder! It makes me shudder!’ It does not make me shudder. That too must be a skill that I do not understand.”
Now it happened that one day his father said to him, “Listen, you there in the corner. You are getting big and strong. You too will have to learn something by which you can earn your bread. See how your brother puts himself out, but there seems to be no hope for you.”
“Well, father,” he answered, “I do want to learn something. Indeed, if possible I would like to learn how to shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.”
The oldest son laughed when he heard that, and thought to himself, “Dear God, what a dimwit that brother of mine is. Nothing will come of him as long as he lives. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
The father sighed, and answered him, “You may well learn to shudder, but you will not earn your bread by shuddering.”
Soon afterward the sexton came to the house on a visit, and the father complained to him about his troubles, telling him how his younger son was so stupid in everything, that he knew nothing and was learning nothing. “Just think,” he said, “when I asked him how he was going to earn his bread, he actually asked to learn to shudder.”
“If there is nothing more than that,” replied the sexton, “he can learn that with me. Just send him to me. I will plane off his rough edges.”
The father agreed to do this, for he thought, “It will do the boy well.”
So the sexton took him home with him, and he was to ring the church bell. A few days later the sexton awoke him at midnight and told him to get up, climb the church tower, and ring the bell.
“You will soon learn what it is to shudder,” he thought. He secretly went there ahead of him. After the boy had reached the top of the tower, had turned around and was about to take hold of the bell rope, he saw a white figure standing on the steps opposite the sound hole.
“Who is there?” he shouted, but the figure gave no answer, neither moving nor stirring. “Answer me,” shouted the boy, “or get out of here. You have no business here at night.”
The sexton, however, remained standing there motionless so that the boy would think he was a ghost.
The boy shouted a second time, “What do you want here? Speak if you are an honest fellow, or I will throw you down the stairs.”
The sexton thought, “He can’t seriously mean that.” He made not a sound and stood as if he were made of stone.
Then the boy shouted to him for the third time, and as that also was to no avail, he ran toward him and pushed the ghost down the stairs. It fell down ten steps and remained lying there in a corner. Then the boy rang the bell, went home, and without saying a word went to bed and fell asleep.
The sexton’s wife waited a long time for her husband, but he did not come back. Finally she became frightened and woke up the boy, asking, “Don’t you know where my husband is? He climbed up the tower before you did.”
“No,” replied the boy, “but someone was standing by the sound hole on the other side of the steps, and because he would neither give an answer nor go away, I took him for a thief and threw him down the steps. Go there and you will see if he was the one. I am sorry if he was.”
The woman ran out and found her husband, who was lying in the corner moaning. He had broken his leg. She carried him down, and then crying loudly she hurried to the boy’s father. “Your boy,” she shouted, “has caused a great misfortune. He threw my husband down the steps, causing him to break his leg. Take the good-for-nothing out of our house.”
The father was alarmed, and ran to the sexton’s house, and scolded the boy. “What evil tricks are these? The devil must have prompted you to do them.”
“Father,” he replied, “do listen to me. I am completely innocent. He was standing there in the night like someone with evil intentions. I did not know who it was, and I warned him three times to speak or to go away.”
“Oh,” said the father, “I have experienced nothing but unhappiness with you. Get out of my sight. I do not want to look at you anymore.”
“Yes, father, and gladly. Just wait until daylight, and I will go forth and learn how to shudder. Then I shall have a skill that will support me.”
“Learn what you will,” said the father. “It is all the same to me. Here are fifty talers for you. Take them and go into the wide world, but tell no one where you come from, or who your father is, because I am ashamed of you.”
“Yes, father, I will do just as you wish. If that is all you want from me, I can easily remember it.”
So at daybreak the boy put his fifty talers into his pocket, and went forth on the main road, continually saying to himself, “If only I could shudder! If only I could shudder!”
A man came up to him and heard this conversation that the boy was holding with himself, and when they had walked a little farther to where they could see the gallows, the man said to him, “Look, there is the tree where seven men got married to the rope maker’s daughter, and are now learning how to fly. Sit down beneath it, and wait until night comes, and then you will learn how to shudder.”
“If there is nothing more than that,” answered the boy, “I can do it easily. But if I learn how to shudder that quickly, you shall have my fifty talers. Just come back to me tomorrow morning.”
Then the boy went to the gallows, sat down beneath them, and waited until evening. Because he was cold, he made himself a fire. However, at midnight there came up such a cold wind that in spite of his fire he could not get warm. And as the wind pushed the hanged men against each other, causing them to move to and fro, he thought, “You are freezing down here next to the fire. Those guys up there must really be freezing and suffering.” Feeling pity for them, he put up the ladder, and climbed up, untied them, one after the other, and then brought down all seven.
Then he stirred up the fire, blew into it, and set them all around it to warm themselves. But they just sat there without moving, and their clothes caught fire. So he said, “Be careful, or I will hang you up again.”
The dead men, however, heard nothing and said nothing, and they let their rags continue to burn. This made him angry, and he said, “If you won’t be careful, I can’t help you. I don’t want to burn up with you.” So he hung them up again all in a row. Then he sat down by his fire and fell asleep.
The next morning the man came to him and wanted to have the fifty talers. He said, “Well, do you know how to shudder?”
“No,” he answered. “Where would I have learned it? Those fellows up there did not open their mouths. They were so stupid that they let the few old rags which they had on their bodies catch fire.”
Then the man saw that he would not be getting the fifty talers that day. He went away saying, “Never before have I met such a fellow.”
The boy went on his way as well, and once more began muttering to himself, ” Oh, if only I could shudder! Oh, if only I could shudder!”
A cart driver who was walking along behind him heard this and asked, “Who are you?”
“I don’t know,” replied the boy.
Then the cart driver asked, “Where do you come from?”
“I don’t know.”
“Who is your father?”
“I am not permitted to say.”
“What are you always muttering to yourself?”
“Oh,” replied the boy, “I want to be able shudder, but no one can teach me how.”
“Stop that foolish chatter,” said the cart driver. “Come, walk along with me, and I will see that I get a place for you.”
The boy went with the cart driver, and that evening they came to an inn where they decided to spend the night. On entering the main room, the boy again said quite loudly, “If only I could shudder! If only I could shudder!”
Hearing this, the innkeeper laughed and said, “If that is your desire, there should be a good opportunity for you here.”
“Oh, be quiet,” said the innkeeper’s wife. “Too many meddlesome people have already lost their lives. It would be a pity and a shame if his beautiful eyes would never again see the light of day.”
But the boy said, “I want to learn to shudder, however difficult it may be. That is why I left home.”
He gave the innkeeper no rest, until the latter told him that there was a haunted castle not far away where a person could very easily learn how to shudder, if he would just keep watch there for three nights. The king had promised that whoever would dare to do this could have his daughter in marriage, and she was the most beautiful maiden under the sun. Further, in the castle there were great treasures, guarded by evil spirits. These treasures would then be freed, and would make a poor man rich enough. Many had entered the castle, but no one had come out again.
The next morning the boy went to the king and said, “If it be allowed, I will keep watch three nights in the haunted castle.”
The king looked at him, and because the boy pleased him, he said, “You may ask for three things to take into the castle with you, but they must be things that are not alive.”
To this the boy replied, “Then I ask for a fire, a lathe, and a woodcarver’s bench with a knife.”
The king had all these things carried into the castle for him during the day. When night was approaching, the boy went inside and made himself a bright fire in one of the rooms, placed the woodcarver’s bench and knife beside it, and sat down at the lathe.
“Oh, if only I could shudder!” he said. “But I won’t learn it here either.”
Towards midnight he decided to stir up his fire. He was just blowing into it when a cry suddenly came from one of the corners, “Au, meow! How cold we are!”
“You fools,” he shouted, “what are you crying about? If you are cold, come and sit down by the fire and warm yourselves.”
When he had said that, two large black cats came with a powerful leap and sat down on either side of him, looking at him savagely with their fiery eyes.
A little while later, after warming themselves, they said, “Comrade, shall we play a game of cards?”
“Why not?” he replied, “But first show me your paws.”
So they stretched out their claws.
“Oh,” he said, “what long nails you have. Wait. First I will have to trim them for you.”
With that he seized them by their necks, put them on the woodcarver’s bench, and tightened them into the vice by their feet. “I have been looking at your fingers,” he said, “and my desire to play cards has disappeared,” and he struck them dead and threw them out into the water.
After he had put these two to rest, he was about to sit down again by his fire, when from every side and every corner there came black cats and black dogs on red-hot chains. More and more of them appeared until he could no longer move. They shouted horribly, then jumped into his fire and pulled it apart, trying to put it out.
He quietly watched them for a little while, but finally it was too much for him, and he seized his carving-knife, and cried, “Away with you, you villains!” and hacked away at them. Some of them ran away, the others he killed, and threw out into the pond. When he came back he blew into the embers of his fire until they flamed up again, and warmed himself.
As he thus sat there, his eyes would no longer stay open, and he wanted to fall asleep. Looking around, he saw a large bed in the corner. “That is just what I wanted,” he said, and lay down in it. However, as he was about to shut his eyes, the bed began to move by itself, going throughout the whole castle.
“Good,” he said, “but let’s go faster.”
Then the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, over thresholds and stairways, up and down. But then suddenly, hop, hop, it tipped upside down and lay on him like a mountain. But he threw the covers and pillows into the air, climbed out, and said, “Now anyone who wants to may drive.” Then he lay down by his fire, and slept until it was day.
In the morning the king came, and when he saw him lying there on the ground, he thought that the ghosts had killed him and that he was dead. Then said he, “It is indeed a pity to lose such a handsome person.”
The boy heard this, got up, and said, “It hasn’t come to that yet.”
The king was astonished, but glad, and asked how he had fared.
“Very well,” he replied. “One night is past. The two others will pass as well.”
When he returned to the innkeeper, the latter looked astonished and said, “I did not think that I’d see you alive again. Did you learn how to shudder?”
“No,” he said, “it is all in vain. If someone could only tell me how.”
The second night he again went up to the old castle, sat down by the fire, and began his old song once more, “If only I could shudder!”
As midnight was approaching he heard a noise and commotion. At first it was soft, but then louder and louder. Then it was a little quiet, and finally, with a loud scream, half of a man came down the chimney and fell in front of him.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Another half belongs here. This is too little.”
Then the noise began again. With roaring and howling the other half fell down as well.
“Wait,” he said. “Let me blow on the fire and make it burn a little warmer for you.”
When he had done that and looked around again. The two pieces had come together, and a hideous man was sitting in his place.
“That wasn’t part of the wager,” said the boy. “That bench is mine.”
The man wanted to force him aside, but the boy would not let him, instead pushing him away with force, and then sitting down again in his own place.
Then still more men fell down, one after the other. They brought nine bones from dead men and two skulls, then set them up and bowled with them.
The boy wanted to play too and said, “Listen, can I bowl with you?”
“Yes, if you have money.”
“Money enough,” he answered, “but your bowling balls are not quite round.” Then he took the skulls, put them in the lathe and turned them round.
“There, now they will roll better,” he said. “Hey! This will be fun!”
He played with them and lost some of his money, but when the clock struck twelve, everything disappeared before his eyes. He lay down and peacefully fell asleep.
The next morning the king came to learn what had happened. “How did you do this time?” he asked.
“I went bowling,” he answered, “and lost a few pennies.”
“Did you shudder?”
“How?” he said. “I had great fun, but if I only knew how to shudder.”
On the third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly, “If only I could shudder!”
When it was late, six large men came in carrying a coffin. At this he said, “Aha, for certain that is my little cousin, who died a few days ago.” Then he motioned with his finger and cried out, “Come, little cousin, come.”
They put the coffin on the ground. He went up to it and took the lid off. A dead man lay inside. He felt his face, and it was cold as ice.
“Wait,” he said, “I will warm you up a little.” He went to the fire and warmed his own hand, then laid it on the dead man’s face, but the dead man remained cold. Then he took him out, sat down by the fire, and laid him on his lap, rubbing the dead man’s arms to get the blood circulating again.
When that did not help either, he thought to himself, “When two people lie in bed together, they keep each other warm.” So he carried the dead man to the bed, put him under the covers, and lay down next to him. A little while later the dead man became warm too and began to move.
The boy said, “See, little cousin, I got you warm, didn’t I?”
But the dead man cried out, “I am going to strangle you.”
“What?” he said. “Is that my thanks? Get back into your coffin!” Then he picked him up, threw him inside, and shut the lid. Then the six men came and carried him away again.
“I cannot shudder,” he said. “I won’t learn it here as long as I live.”
Then a man came in. He was larger than all others, and looked frightful. But he was old and had a long white beard.
“You wretch,” he shouted, “you shall soon learn what it is to shudder, for you are about to die.”
“Not so fast,” answered the boy. “If I am to die, I will have to be there.”
“I’ve got you,” said the monster.
“Now, now, don’t boast. I am just as strong as you are, and probably even stronger.”
“We shall see,” said the old man. “If you are stronger than I am, I shall let you go. Come, let’s put it to the test.”
Then the old man led him through dark passageways to a blacksmith’s forge, took an ax, and with one blow drove one of the anvils into the ground.
“I can do better than that,” said the boy, and went to the other anvil. The old man stood nearby, wanting to look on. His white beard hung down. The boy seized the ax and split the anvil with one blow, wedging the old man’s beard in the crack.
“Now I have you,” said the boy. “Now it is your turn to die.” Then he seized an iron bar and beat the old man until he moaned and begged him to stop, promising that he would give him great riches. The boy pulled out the ax and released him. The old man led him back into the castle, and showed him three chests full of gold in a cellar.
“Of these,” he said, “one is for the poor, the second one is for the king, and the third one is yours.”
Meanwhile it struck twelve, and the spirit disappeared, leaving the boy standing in the dark. “I can find my own way out,” he said. Feeling around, he found his way to the bedroom, and fell asleep by his fire.
The next morning the king came and said, “By now you must have learned how to shudder.”
“No,” he answered. “What is it? My dead cousin was here, and a bearded man came and showed me a large amount of money down below, but no one showed me how to shudder.”
Then the king said, “You have redeemed the castle, and shall marry my daughter.”
“That is all very well,” said the boy, “but I still do not know how to shudder.”
Then the gold was brought up, and the wedding celebrated, but however much the young king loved his wife, and however happy he was, he still was always saying, “If only I could shudder. If only I could shudder.” With time this made her angry.
Her chambermaid said, “I can help. I know how he can learn to shudder.”
She went out to the brook that flowed through the garden, and caught a whole bucketful of minnows. That night when the young king was asleep, his wife was to pull the covers off him and pour the bucketful of cold water and minnows onto him, so that the little fishes would wriggle all over him.
When she did this, he woke up crying out, “Oh, what is making me shudder? What is making me shudder, dear wife? Yes, now I know how to shudder.”
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by Eivind Skjellum
Known to US audiences as The Ghost Writer, the perhaps slightly misleadingly UK-titled The Ghost appeared on screens across the UK in April last year to pretty mixed reviews. Recently, it was given a new lease of life as part of the new Orange Thursdays offer, which lets customers download a film from iTunes every week – for free!
The film tells the story of a writer (Ewan McGregor) who has been offered the chance to ghost-write the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lang has retired to the US with his family and is living a very comfortable existence and before long, details of his mysterious premiership are clashing with an emerging scandal which calls into question some of the moral choices he made during his time in office.
It’s hard to get too excited about a movie like The Ghost based simply on simple things like film trailers and posters. From the footage that emerged before its release, it looked very much like a standard thriller that seemed to have eerily close connections with the relatively recently departed former British Prime Minister in real life. Sure, Pierce Brosnan may physically be about as far from Tony Blair as Daniel Craig is from Gordon Brown, but there were elements of the story relating to the famous ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK that were very familiar.
However, despite the fact that, for the most part, The Ghost is a relatively unexciting piece of cinema, it’s more than competently directed by Roman Polanski and would be an ideal midweek rental. It even looked pretty solid as I watched it on my iPhone 4 mobile phone. Interesting too is the comparative reality between the exiled Prime Minister and Polanski himself. The director himself knows what it is like to spend the rest of his life in another country for fear of his past coming back to haunt him – and there is a touch of paranoia in this tight little drama that seems to stem specifically from here.
The Ghost – or The Ghost Writer if you would prefer – is far from a classic. But with decent performances from Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and a steady hand on the other side of the camera, it just about delivers 128 minutes of solid entertainment. If you did miss out on the Orange Thursdays offer, it’s readily available on DVD, Blu-ray and online rental outlets now. For my money, it’s definitely worthy of your time.
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by Eivind Skjellum
Today we don’t have any myths to tell our children in the modern world. Fortunately we can rely on the myths that are transmitted through the movies. A good example of a movie that I let my boys watch is Disney’s modern classic The Lion King since it contains many good lesions for a boy – and for a man – to learn.
The story features Simba who is born and hailed as the next king after his father, the current lion king Mufasa who teaches his son about the ‘circel of life’ and what it takes to be a king. Mufasa’s brother Scar, however, wants the throne for himself and uses his cunning to try to get rid of both Mufasa and Simba. First he tricks the young and eager Simba to go to the elephant graveyard where Scar’s allies, the hyenas, await him. Mufasa saves him from the hyenas and teaches Simba that courage is not absence of fear and certainly not rushing into danger. A king needs to be much wiser and more mature than so.
Next time Scar succeeds with his plan when he lures Simba into a ravine where his hyena companions set a heard of gnus on the runaway in his direction. Scar then tells Mufasa who rushes to his son’s rescue. He barely manages to get Simba to safety but finds himself hanging from a cliff where Scar can give him the final blow and throw him to his death. Scar then convinces Simba that it was Simba’s fault and sends the hyenas after him. Then Scar can claim the throne along with his hyena friends.
New start – new rules
Simba, who managed to escape, is found in the desert by the meerkat Timon and the warthog Pumbaa who adopt and raise Simba with guidance from their own problem-free philosophy Hakuna matata – no worries! And no responsibilities! Just put your past behind you, bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it. And instead of hunting pray Simba learns to eat bugs and worms. Timon literary files his claws down.
Isn’t this the perfect illustration of the condition of the modern man? Being cut off from the past, from our own source of ancient masculinity, from our own identity. Feeling a pressure to stop oppressing women, stop destroying the world, stop being in the way, and where masculinity is viewed as a something that is destructive and problematic per se, even leaving us with a strong sense of guilt and shame. Trying to find guidance in self-help books telling us to be more in the present, to give up all identity, to forgive the past or just to be nice, happy and harmless.
In the now grown up Simba’s case he can recognize that something is missing in his life, a loneliness despite his friendly and caring company. Fruitlessly, he searches for his father in the stars where he was told to find him and all other kings of the past.
But Simbas masculine powers are soon to be awaken by two visits. First by his childhood friend Nala, now a lioness, who opens Simba’s heart as they quickly fall in love as they were destined. But when she urges him to return and challenge Scar to the throne he reverts to his old strategy of “Hakuna matata”, thus escaping from his responsibility to Nala’s great disappointment. His lack of courage isn’t exactly attractive to the lioness, but her main concern is that her savanna has been turned into a wasteland by Scar’s mismanagement. Scar was never interested or wise enough to respect the nature’s balance and the circle of life, he was only in it for his own gain and is now bored by the situation that he obviously cannot handle.
Next the old wise mandrill Rafiki pays Simba a visit and just like a zen master or a jester he guides Simba into some deep soulwork in order to find his father and get in contact with his true self. In a scene that resembles Luke Skywalker’s jedi training Simba follows Rafiki through a dark and shady forest and finding not Darth Vader but his father Mufasa in his own reflection in the water, in the bottom of his own soul. “He lives in you” Rafiki says. Then Simba hears Mufasa’s voice telling him that he has forgotten about his father and forgotten who he is. Simba thought that his father had abandoned him, but it was really he who hadn’t dared to look for him from the guilt he still carries. In order to find his father and all the past kings he now has to remember who he is, and that is much more than what he has become up till now.
The return of the king
Simba is far from done in his work with himself but nevertheless he knows that he has to return to free his country from Scar’s reign with the aid of his friends Nala, Timon and Pumbaa. Simba may be the stronger of the two combatants, but Scar has the psychological advantage. Simba still believes that he is guilty of his father’s death, which Scar uses to his advantage when he forces Simba to the edge of the cliff, just as his father. Unfortunately for Scar, his pride betrays him as he cannot resist telling Simba that he killed Mufasa. What’s the point of being cunning and outwitting everyone if there’s no one to share it with and no one to admire it, something practically all movie villains seem to think.
And with that all Simba’s destructive energy of guilt that until now has been turned inwards is released and transformed into pure rage within a blink of an eye and Simba can counter attack. Now Simba has reached his full potential and he can defeat Scar and the hyenas can be driven out of the country.
The circle is closed and continued
The movie ends as it started with Rafiki lifting the new lion cub, Simba’s and Nala’s son, to be hailed by all the animals of the lands as the next king – that is, if he can grow up to be one. And the circle of life continues.
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by Eivind Skjellum
About a week prior to the Oslo terror on July 22, I was in a part of town I rarely visit. I was en-route to an exciting adventure at IKEA and was waiting for the bus that would complete my journey. As I was scanning the features of the recently erected mosque there, I noticed two young ethnic Norwegians walking towards me. They didn’t look particularly tough. Though they spoke “tough”. One of them was clearly afraid. I saw it in his eyes; they were wide and beamed with terror.
The two Norwegian kids in “Pakistan city”
“Did you see how he was looking at me?,” he told his small, plump friend. “I should never have come here. This is fucking Pakistan city!” His buddy proceeded to play cool and told him, as if aping a gangster, “Don’t worry, I have connections here. I know so and so and they’re really bad ass.”
It was a strange situation for me, because I didn’t feel even mild anxiety there. And there was something so sad and painful to me about listening to these two young men. They were right there beside me, but we were worlds apart.
I noticed, as they kept talking, that I felt compelled to inject myself into their world. I felt an urge to offer them some reprieve from their angst, to pass on some of the freedom that I know and give them a positive seed for the future. But I couldn’t find the right words.
I judge that in order to influence someone’s take on reality, we must first embrace and validate their existing one. I believe we can’t transform others from a starting point of completely rejecting their worldview. It just doesn’t work. But I didn’t quite know how to embrace their worldview and still maintain integrity with my own. To be honest, I still don’t. And to complicate matters further – I wasn’t even certain that what they were saying was nonsense. Maybe they had been in danger. Maybe a scared sixteen-year-old young Norwegian kid in “Pakistan city” stands out like a lighthouse. Truth is – I don’t know. The world they inhabit lies in mist beyond my own veil of ignorance and confusion.
In the end, we exchanged brief words, but I didn’t feel I left them with anything significant.
Those two boys unwittingly left their mark on me, for I felt with them a yearning to show up as a mentor, but I didn’t know how. In a way, that pain served as a turning point for me.
Hussein, the Iraqi Taxi Driver
Around the same time as my experiences in “Pakistan City”, I found myself in conversation with a young Iraqi taxi driver. I was late for my plane to Edinburgh, where I was to attend my Primary Integration Training with the Mankind Project and Hussein got me there in time.
I talk to people and so I hear stories. Hussein’s was about racism. He told me he would be exposed to racism on average 4-5 times a day. The day previously, a normal looking, polite Norwegian man my age had been in his back seat. Hussein told me he had suddenly asked him “When are you going back home?”. Hussein had started talking about saving up for going on holiday and how it was hard. Then the young Norwegian man replied “No, I mean – for good. I’ll help you get out of the country. Because you need to know that there will come a day not long from now when people like you will be shot down in the streets.” From the way Hussein told the story, it sounded like this young Norwegian man kind of liked the idea.
I was pretty shocked. I thought of the complete lack of empathy in this young passenger and as I see him before my mind’s eye telling tales of a future where immigrants are gunned down in the streets, I feel anger rise in my belly.
Hussein was a nice guy, but I didn’t like what he had told me.
The Oslo Terror
As Hussein and the two boys in Pakistan city were on my mind, terror hit: A cynical and wildly disturbed Norwegian man attacked the headquarters of our government as he felt they had failed the nation by embracing multiculturalism. He did so with a massive car bomb that could be felt and heard miles outside of the city center. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then proceeded to kill sixty-nine people in the spring of their lives on an idyllic island an hour’s drive from of Oslo. Visions of the island nightmare endured by those young kids will be forever etched into our nation’s collective memory.
We all thought Muslims had done it of course. But the terrorist was Norwegian, white, 32 and quite normal looking. That fact changed us.
While I haven’t studied it closely, I can say that the terrorist’s personality profile is unsurprising reading (at least to me). He was for practical purposes fatherless, insecure and carried enormous hatred behind his facade of well-adjusted politeness. Alone with himself, he became increasingly convinced that he had been given an almost messianic mission and that it was his burden to carry it out, even though he recognized it as gruesome. He was a failure in worldly terms and had to compensate in the realm of fantasy; one of his current demands is that in order to reveal all details in interviews with the police, he must first be made the ruler of Norway.
I have thought much about this man, henceforth referred to as “the terrorist”. My interest in him is partly personal. As I have shared elsewhere, when I was in my early 20s, I started slipping into an inner landscape that felt increasingly twisted. This happened while I was polite and well-adjusted on the outside. Many years later, I eventually understood that this was a symptom of an enormous repression of my inner primal masculine and all the wildness and sexuality that comes with it. Today, I treasure that period in my life as the seed to my current spiritual and psychological insights, but I remember I feared then that I would one day end up killing someone – such was the power of these repressed inner energies.
As I now think of psychotic mass murderers, school massacre perpetrators, and terrorists – especially the Western breed – I see that they tend to be the quiet ones. Their acts are generally met with surprise by those who know them, for they never let people in on their inner psychological world. That may be wise in a way, because they are unlikely to have anyone in their lives who will be able to listen and embrace what they have to share.
The terrible paradox is that these young men are generally the most spiritually attuned and sensitive among us1, but since no elder wise man is around to embrace them, recognize their gifts and show them the way through their transition, they are left alone with their over-stimulated, festering inner worlds. As a consequence, instead of seeing themselves as worthy, strong, beautiful men, they likely fear themselves and question their right to life. I observe them and suspect that most of them have strong masochistic tendencies.
Yet masochists, through the archetypal dynamics inherent in the human psyche, turn sadists in the end (exactly the impulse I feared in myself). It starts out innocent enough, perhaps as dreams of people, creatures, places or situations that symbolize suppressed inner energies. Thoughts and fantasies may start appearing in their waking world, of murder perhaps – or of brutal sexual acts. Eventually, these thoughts may start to intermingle with those we associate with normal day to day functioning and become more and more indistinguishable from gross reality.
And then suddenly one day, perhaps in the blink of an eye – or perhaps as a long and gradual buildup – this deep, primal psychic material – twisted out of shape – comes shooting like a tsunami through our repression barrier. Its energies overcome the ramparts of the ego structure, much like flood water conquers a dam, and then comes thundering down the riverbed of everyday life.
If the collapse of the repression barrier comes suddenly, the man may come to his senses with a smoking gun in his hand. He may then plead temporary insanity. In reality, it would be more precise to say that he was hijacked by the force of his own suppressed psychic material. And since few will tell him to now embrace the psychic material that turned him “mad” to begin with (e.g. his feelings of vulnerability, anger and fear), his madness will likely escalate with time. I believe only grace, enormous suffering, or the intervention of a powerful elder (like the monk that beats his murderous disciple in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring) would change this man’s trajectory through life.
If the collapse of the repression barrier happens over time, like a trickle of water that arrives in darkness until it one day comes seeping through the floorbords, the man might gradually cease to function like a normal human being and become instead victim of a more consistently evil archetypal shadow system. With buildup over time, I believe a man becomes able to sustain his delusions and stabilize them as everyday “reality”. Sudden experiences of “losing it” are not part of these men’s psychological profile; they are consistent in their psychopathy.
In such a way, a man with a poor self-image gradually designs a fantasy world in which his alter ego can rule supreme. He will project his inner weakness onto others and may start to see himself as superhuman. He will then despise the weakness he sees in others (which is largely his own) and may grow to consider huge parts of the population as unfit for life. He may then pursue his vision, which may involve ridding the earth of an entire ethnic, religious or ideologic group, essentially in order to create a world that doesn’t feel threatening for the kid in him that he has denied and stowed away in a dark inner dungeon.
With fear as his motivation and empathy locked down in the same dark dungeon as that wounded child, the man will chase, when threatened, his own projections unrelentingly – to the point, perhaps, of laying waste to hundreds, perhaps millions, of human lives in a calculated and organized fashion. It is a terrible and tragic irony that a man’s view of himself as superhuman comes as a hard counter to a profound sense of inferiority. The terrorist and Hitler are similar in this regard. Consumed by archetypal shadow, their sole purpose remains to attack those that remind them of the fact that they are really but wounded children.
When we come to grasp the dynamics of the human mind and soul in such a way, the Oslo terror becomes, if possible, an even greater tragedy. For we may then see the outline of something so soft and vulnerable in us all that we spend vast energy suppressing. As our eyes adjust to the dark, we may be reminded of the words Jesus spoke so long ago: “You must become like little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven”. To become like little children is, in my judgment, to embrace that inner vulnerability and all the playfulness and wonder that are its siblings. And our refusal to do so is what keeps the gates of Heaven locked.
The only important difference between us and the terrorist was that he took this human tragedy of suppressing what is most beautiful in us further than we do. And when we realize that this terror would likely not have happened if the terrorist were honest enough to admit “I feel grief over my failures in life. I feel afraid”, it should break our hearts.
Norway lost 77 lives that day, most of them youths. For the bereft, only tears and memories remain.
…and then The London Riots came
When I heard news that people were looting and immolating buildings on the streets of London, I suspected right away that the majority of the rioters were young men. Now it turns out that a lot of young women were involved too, but locals I’ve spoken to have gone some way in confirming my initial suspicions.
To improve our understanding of what happened in London – and to find a way to connect the dots between these events I have described – it’s essential that we now examine a much maligned part of men: his inherent primal masculine.
There is a wildness that exists in all men. It’s the wildness of Iron John and for the ones who don’t understand men, it may seem as a chaotic and violent energy. But the true Wild Man puts a man in touch with his emotions and makes him a courageous and powerful force of good in the world. He may not be a politically correct force of good, but a force of good nevertheless.
Every good woman looking for a man and every young man looking for a mentor secretly yearns for this Wild Man quality. Some young men may find it in a martial arts sensei or an unusually powerful teacher or youth club leader. I judge that the truest parts of us always appreciate the Wild Man quality, for it represents a man’s heart and soul – and we intuit that such things are important. Indeed, for those of us who have successfully evaded society’s attempts at brainwashing us with its anti-male propaganda, this force is extremely benevolent.
Yet the Wild Man is feared by liberals and conservatives alike. In the postmodern world, this ancient energy is under attack by naive contemporary socialogists who think, entranced by nonsense PC ideals, that people are born as blank slates. If you then think that all the ills of the world are caused by men, and that this wildness seems a lot like the destructive force you are trying to combat, the path to thinking that you can remove the wildness from a man by changing his social conditioning is short. What these confused ideologues then do is treat a boy as a broken girl and suppress a big part of him, force-feeding him the idea that if he were more like a girl, things would be better2. It is likely that the boys affected will harbor anger and bitterness towards the world as a result; they have after all been under attack. This anger will often be hidden behind a veneer of nice (passive aggression) and will sometimes be expressed as rebellion.
But there is nothing more important to a boy or a man than to feel authentically powerful. And the painful reality is that a man who is out of touch with his inner wildness, whatever the reason, is out of touch with his power, which truly is his heart and soul. He becomes a talking head who enjoys intellectual masturbation as well as the occassional ejaculation. But authentic feelings of love and empathy are hard for him to access. Some end up as raging and rebellious, which would aptly describe the London rioters. Some end up as emotionally numb, yet seemingly well-adjusted narcissists, which seems to aptly describe the Oslo terrorist – and a frightening amount of politcians and CEO hotshots.
Although it doesn’t excuse their behaviour, these rioters clearly have not been shown their power and their beauty by an elder. And when the authentic, benevolent force of the inner Wild Man has not found a healthy expression in a man’s psyche, it comes out sideways, as truly destructive behaviour. Modern politicians, sociologists, feminists and gender “experts” are doing their best to take a man’s power away from him, but only a man who doesn’t feel authentically powerful is a threat to society.
When we combat the inner Wild Man and disempower our young, we are inviting destruction. It is a bleak situation.
The promise of initiation and authentic ritual process is that they connect a man to his inner Wild Man energy. Thus a man learns, metaphorically speaking, how to wield a sword and dance at the same time. He also finds his rightful place under the stars, among the trees and the animals. But after the onset of the industrial revolution, we don’t teach that anymore. With machines now running our lives, we seem so hypnotized by civilization that we have completely lost touch with the soulful nature energy required for sword-wielding dances. That energy predates machines. And it will outlive machines. For it is like a slow, eternal, cosmic hum at the source of the world – and its promise is to return us to right relationship with creation itself. Deep down, every man’s soul knows this and it is this knowing combined with the facts of modern life that trigger our modern epidemic of depression.
There are no excuses for killing 77 people to avoid facing yourself or for burning buildings for shits and giggles and plasma televisions. And yet, there is something to be learned from this: A society that doesn’t take the challenge of its young men seriously is walking a precarious path towards its own destruction. And if the way men and boys are falling behind in society in virtually every measurable way is any indication, we have a rocky path ahead.
Here in Norway, the wave of love that washed over us after the July atrocities has been amazing. Yet one fact remains – the best defense in the public eye to prevent this from happening again is more tolerance and more multiculturalism. That surely sounds nice, but I don’t agree that it will make us safe from harm. I judge that the best answer would be to look for ways to accept responsibility for what happened3 and from that place of maturity start mentoring and initiating our boys so they become beautiful, powerful men.
It would do us well to honor the enormous psychological turmoil inherent in the process of becoming a man – and to realize that a society in which men are victims of concerted efforts to make them doubt their own authentic power and beauty is in serious trouble. To stop our young men from feeling and causing terror, new answers must be sought. Now is the time.
1. Robert Moore tells us in his volume on the Magician archetype that old native cultures chose its shamans amongst the young men who displayed the greatest signs of psychological instability. They did that because they knew these men would be the most empowered shamans once aided through their psychological turmoil.
2. This may start in kindergarten where employees may shame the more aggressive play style of boys and instead tell them to be quiet and behave. It continues from there throughout school where an ability to sit still and keep your mouth shut is preferred over active play and self-expression. Modern life is simply more suited for women.
3. Accepting responsibility for the Oslo terror would involve accepting that the difference between you and I and the terrorist is way smaller than we’d like to think. It would also involve accepting that we have created a society where a person can be driven to such an extreme. There is a huge shadow side of our so-called civilized and humane society here to be explored. Consider that the less able you are to feel shared humanity with the terrorist, the more likely you are to be in denial of the same primal energies that operate within yourself.
Editor’s Note: Now that Eivind is a New Warrior … I feel it only right to add some of his more controversial pieces to the ManKind Project Journal, in ‘The Door’ section. ~ Boysen
by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
I read this short article over at the Good Men Project. Something about some right wing Republican talking about African Americans and who said this in an interview:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
Tom Matlack and a lot of commenters went ra ra ra – this is terrible, awful. She is implying that African Americans were better off as slaves. Why don’t I see that implication? It got me thinking. When are people still stuck in the postmodern cramp of cultural relativism going to stop disempowering themselves by having a trigger happy victim circuitry? I’m going to do something patently crazy here and say this is exactly the theme I picked up on in my American History X review, where the neonazi Derek Vinyard does this rant.
Such a statement isn’t crazy because it actually is crazy. It is crazy because oversensitive, shadow denying postmoderns love twisting such arguments into something completely unrecognizable in an attempt to take me out. So this is where the snowball starts rolling. He must be a neonazi. A racist. Moral outrage! Headlines!! Public humiliation! Crucify him. Get him out of the public eye! Scum is what you are!!
Yet looking at my words, I have said no such tings. It’s all heresay and implications. And yet it happens all the time.
Here’s what I am saying – this morally outraged rhetoric of postmodern people is the source of a huge amount of problems in the world. It is exactly that which creates the polarization of right and left. In this way, liberals created the tea party movement (just like they created Derek Vinyard). Am I the only one who sees this? Let’s now grow up and recognize the world as interconnected and understand that we are all implicated in some way or another. Aho!
As people of higher consciousness (according to Spiral Dynamics), liberals should now take that one final step into 2nd tier consciousness and learn to own their part of it. Oh, that would be the day! Then the polarization would reduce and right wing Republicans would be free to start growing from their twisted, narrow-minded, little religious cramps into full, sacred selfhood.
Anyway, here’s my reply to the blog post (which for some reason didn’t get through).
I’m intrigued by this. I have no idea who this woman is. I can’t stand the Republican party and think they are largely a bunch of narrow-minded religious zealots. I’m quite liberal and I’m for all the things you say she is against.
But I look at the statement – without any background information and no emotional investment – and simply can’t understand what the fuzz is about.
What I see is simply an expression of concern for the development of the African American family structure. I see you speak about “implications”. What are those? I can’t for the life of me see how the statement implies that African American families were better off as slaves. I notice in myself that I could choose to interpret it that Obama, as a representative of the Democrats, has made conditions worse for African Americans. I *think* can notice – EXTREMELY faintly – how a voice in me would have it that she claims African Americans were botter off as slaves. EXTREMELY FAINTLY.
Yet, I choose not to listen to those inner voices. I could. But why disempower myself? Why speculate about what something means only to reaffirm a broken part of me?
One of the things I don’t like about the postmodern world is that there is an enormous enthusiasm to play the victim card. I find myself losing trust in a man or a woman who screams bloody outrage too easily. I see that as psychological projection. I see it as a person with poor psychological boundaries and an inability to see their own inner shadow complex (the way they themselves judge ALL the time) using another person’s slip as an opportunity to further sidestep the important work of turning attention inwards.
Those of you upset by this – are you sure you are not just firing on all emotional circuits because you are so USED to it? That this is not about any objective decency, but about your own habitual tendencies?
The more we let ourselves be triggered, the less we can *be the change* in the world.
I say this having none of the political or emotional background with this woman. And remember – these words are the only ones I have ever seen from her. And if she is a member of the Tea party movement, I want to slap her (we’re not in the middle ages anymore). So I basically suspect I would find her unappealing.
PS! The reason I don’t like he Tea Party movement is that they are arrogant enough to create God in their own image and then pretend he has a political agenda. Belief in a divine creator is a beautiful thing, but to make God the tool of your own self-contraction is true blasphemy.
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Groundhog Day is a comedy far outside of the trodden path. The story of Bill Murray’s “Phil” and his journey to free himself from an eternity reliving the same day echoes the wisdom of the ages. It is with great pleasure that I bring you precisely this review before my well-deserved hiatus.
Headed for Punxsutawney
Phil is the weather man for a local Pittsburgh-based TV station. Now time has come for February 2nd again, and with that: Groundhog day in Punxsutawney. Phil despises the ritual that the common folk of the tiny Pennsylvanian village find so elating and he is not afraid to voice it. Read more
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Right out of Arthurian lore comes the famous Fisher King myth, a story about a wounded masculine feeling function and the subsequent healing of it by a fool. It comes in many forms, but the version told by Parry in this movie starts with a prince who has to sleep alone in a forest to prove he can be King.
Alone by himself at night, he is visited by a sacred vision of a fire with a holy Grail in it. A voice tells him that he shall be the keeper of the Grail that he may heal the hearts of men.
The young prince is overcome by feelings of grandiosity and reaches in to grab it. The Grail disappears and the boy’s hand is left terribly wounded. Another version of the same myth leaves him with an arrow through his testicles.
In all versions of the story, the wound grows deeper as the years pass, and the boy – now King – knows by consequence no joy or love in his life. He is always miserable. He begins to die.
The Fisher King wound in modern man
I want to examine the wound itself before digging into the movie’s plot. In his short book on the Fisher King myth, Robert A Johnson talks about this wound as “probably the most common and painful wound which occurs in our Western world”. Robert A Johnson explains to us that it is a wound “in the male, generative, creative part of his being” and that it “affects every sense of value in his psychological structure”.
So how does the wound appear? The playful, active boy who is told to sit down and be quiet receives a shock (wound) to a nervous system that only seconds ago was so alive. The mother who shames her son’s sexuality “shoots an arrow through his testicles” and wounds his sexual feeling function. A son who requests his father’s blessing and receives only his aloofness and temper ends up distrusting men and his own masculinity and a deep wound cuts through his psyche (Robert Bly refers to this as the father’s axe blow).
If the wound were only an issue of family systems gone wrong, maybe we wouldn’t be so ill off. Alas, the weapons by which the wounds are inflicted are woven into the very fabric of our society, leaving us scarred all over by the time we turn twenty. Maybe we divulge an authentic spiritual experience to our local religious leader and find ourselves targeted and programmed, like sheep, with the officially sanctioned version of religious “truth”. Or maybe we go to school to learn the Soul-devouring “truth” that the only valid way of perceiving the world is through our rational faculties. Whatever the cause, the wound grows ever deeper.
So in my opinion, the pertinent question isn’t whether we have a wound. Rather, it is – how can we heal it?
Jack reaches for the Grail
Jack is a deeply unsympathetic, self-absorbed man. He is a “shock jock”, proudly polluting the hearts and minds of the New York masses with his preferred flavour of nasty. He is about to hit TV screens with the new comedy show “On the radio” and in watching his preparations for the show, we witness his visions of grandeur. And just like the self-obsessed prince, God’s call to heal the hearts of men is drowned out by megalomania.
I interpret the TV show Jack is about to star in as a Grail of sorts to his psyche. He muses to himself that for the first time in his life, he will be “a voice with a body”. This “re-embodiment” sounds to me like a weak attempt at a return of feeling (a body feels), a process thwarted by Jack’s inability to take the requisite move towards greater humility. So his Self calls for a deeper wound to wake him up: Edwin, one of his listeners, goes on a killing spree. Jack is the reason why.
It would be mispreresenting the myth to say that this is a typical Fisher King wound. For that wound damages the generative, feeling part of his masculine psyche whereas this event is the start of Jack’s long road back to his. But the movie as I understand it really wants this to be Jack’s Fisher King wound so I think the parallel works for now.
Parry, the White Knight fool
We return to Jack three years later and images of the tragedy still haunt him as he spends his days sweating out the pain in the back room of his new girlfriend’s video store (I see parallels to Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai). Anne is a good woman who loves him in spite of his masochism. And yet, Jack goes out one night to end himself.
Jack’s personal hell is mandatory. It just shows us that under the layers of crap, his Soul works just fine. The fall from Grace is not so much about “deserving punishment”. No, folks, I don’t think the Universe is designed by some grumpy old dude with a stick and an ass-whipping fetish whose name can be called on by people of inferior spirituality and hot temper (worst blasphemy there is). The fall from Grace is rather the Self’s clarion call to the Universe for help, help to restore a man’s image of himself to its appropriate size.
As long as overinflation is occurring, healthy relationship to the divine (or indeed anything at all) is impossible, and the man remains immature, self-absorbed and absolutely fucking miserable (trust me when I say I’ve been there. In fact, I still sometimes – or was that often – am).
Before Jack takes the plunge, two young thugs appear with a desire to fuck him up. But self-proclaimed knight Parry intervenes with his crazy compadres. Jack lives.
Parry, we find, is absolutely off his rocker. He speaks to invisible, floating fat peple and thinks he is a knight on a quest for the holy Grail. Not much later, Jack learns that the cause of his lunacy is that his wife’s brains were splattered all over him because of aforementioned Edwin. Jack now feels guilty for creating Parry the slumdog knight from the remains of the man formerly known as Henry Sagan, university professor and mythology expert. A bond forms between them.
Importantly, Parry is haunted by images of a Red Knight. The Red Knight of the myths is generally associated with power, might and ego. It is a fierce and dangerous energy, yet it is essential for masculine maturity (read more about the Red Knight). The Red Knight appears for Parry when his mind starts reconnecting with the truth of what happened to his wife at the restaurant. Parry himself sees the Red Knight as the reason why he can’t get his hands on the Grail, which is why he needs Jack’s help (he is “the one” according to the little floating fat people).
This Red Knight is clearly important. Let’s get to know this ominous force that separates Parry, and by extension Jack, from the healing powers of his Grail.
Getting intimate with the Red Knight
Perceval was the fool of the original Fisher King myth and the story goes that he encounters and kills a Red Knight early on in life. The Red Knight also appears in the fairy story of Iron John. In Robert Bly’s opinion, he symbolizes the first step on the long road to masculine maturity and is followed by the White and Black knight stages. True to White Knight form, Perceval was a naive young mama’s boy who thought he could rescue the world from evil.
Disregarding the fact that the Red Knight he slays threatens Camelot, it was perhaps not the best thing to do, considering that he spends the next twenty years of his life chasing Red Knight projections (he also fails the first attempt at healing the Fisher King due to fear of speaking up). This is exactly what we do on a large scale in the West today. We kill or exile the Red Knight because we fear him. We imagine he threatens the Kingdom. Images of him are turned into entertainment porn on the nighttime news and then we assign him a different skin color, religion or ideology to our own.
I look at Parry’s Red Knight and see more than merely the gore surrounding the death of Parry’s wife. I see the death of Parry’s primal, masculine power – his own inner Red. A man came and blew his wife’s brains out (a man, incidentally, who had himself exiled *his* inner Red Knight) and there was nothing he could do about it. With one spray of shotgun pellets to his wife’s head, whatever Red may have existed in Henry Sagan was wiped out and externalized as a projection of a demonic Red Knight.
The Red Knight is chasing us wherever we look. We project and make others out to be bad, dangerous, even demonic (war on terror anyone?). We see the Red Knight in the faces of good people (terrorists not included). Why? Because we have all had our stories of receiving shocks to our nervous systems while growing up (though perhaps not quite as severe as Henry Sagan’s). For some, it was perhaps trying to protect Mum from an abusive Dad. Or perhaps it was being bullied by a kid in school. Whatever the reason, we received a shock and decided Red was dangerous.
This fear of Red often manifests in a man’s life as his longing for comfort and security; Red feels too intense. So we exile it from our psyches, condemning ourselves to a lifetime of paranoia, boundary issues and projection.
Now that we named the suppression of Red energy that goes on in virtually every modern man, let’s enter sacred reality and get this show on the road.
Entering crazy time
After Parry shares his first kiss with his chosen damsel in distress, the Red Knight appears one last time. It is the final showdown - as long as Parry is not willing to integrate his Red Knight projections in a conscious way, he must die to his current self through trauma. The Red Knight gets him and Parry enters a coma. It is interesting to note that the thugs who represent the Red Knight in this scene are the same as the ones who attacked Jack in an earlier one. It suggests to me that Jack and Parry share a psychological theme – suppression of Red.
Jack realizes that he must get the “Holy Grail” to wake Parry up from his catatonia. He now gets to prove that he is “The One” the floating fat people talked about by turning into “Parry’s Perceval”. This will make him humble and force him to accept Parry’s crazy view of the world. He intuits that Parry’s and his healing are intimately connected, as he already shared with Anne in an earlier scene (“I thought that if I could help him some way, that maybe things would change for me”).
Parry has something that Jack needs. We understand that particularly from the way Jack reacts to the TV producer who wants him to star in a new show about homeless people. Jack is horrified by the depraved worldview that would enable a man to glorify other people’s suffering and turn it into shits and giggles. Instead, he turns his back on this career-furthering move and favours honoring his new depth of Soul. In Parry resides something that he needs to get more intimate with.
Which leads us to crazy time. What is it I hear you ask? It is a term referring to the “sacred time” a man has to enter once he is called there by his archetypal Self. In crazy time, normal flow of time and space ceases, and a vast, archetypal landscape opens up before the man. Without a good guide, this landscape can consume him and make him go nuts (like Parry). It is not necessarily an exactly *pleasant* experience.
I have some personal experience with this. When I was in my early twenties, I literally feared I was going insane. I feared I would end up doing something horrible one day and pictured that…I’m not sure why I’m telling you this…I would end up stabbing someone to death. It wasn’t that I wanted to, it was just that the Red Knight energy inside of me was so thoroughly suppressed that it was in danger of consuming me. And no mentors or guides were there to help.
In an old indigenous culture, I might have been made shaman. Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette tell us that shamans were always chosen among those who exhibited signs of psychological instability, because that was seen to be an expression of a psyche finely attuned to the mysterious dimensions of the Magician archetype.
A man’s journey through crazy time teaches him enormously valuable lessons about psychological and spiritual healing. For me, it has manifested in a profound understanding of how razor thin the edge between sanity and insanity is. I see clear as day how easy it is to be driven to murder by inner voices (the old cultures would call them demons, I call it suppressed psychic material). And ultimately, this experience has made me question what sanity really is (I see many people our culture would label sane and think they are out of their fucking minds).
Such reflections make a man a good fit to be shaman. There was an idea among the Inuits of the Arctics that any demonic force that the shaman to be had not already been consumed by would be outside of his field of influence once he assumed his fully embodied shamanic role. It explains why I consider my failing psychological stability from my early 20s one of my life’s greatest gifts.
We see how references to crazy time is spattered all across the movie. And when you understand the concept, you will understand that when Jack finds himself in a situation surrounded by seeming insanity (in this movie, these places are ironically health care institutions), the setting is ripe with healing potential. In our ignorant part of the world, however, we decide to medicate against crazy time. I believe this is one of the most important reasons for why we live in such a Soulless society. Crazy time is Soul time. And there is very little Soul in Prozac.
Reclaiming the Grail – a merging of worlds
Jack enters the Fisher King castle and reclaims the Grail from the library of a dying billionaire “King” (in saving him, Jack too becomes Perceval).
When Jack returns to the hospital with the “Grail”, a merging of worlds seems to have taken place. I think crazy time has been integrated into “Newton time” (my invented expression for linear time) and that Jack and Parry emerge on the other side of their quest together, on the third and last stage of the process of constellating the Magician archetype explained by so many scholars of world mythology:
- The Call (life conditions force you to take on a new perception of reality)
- Crazy time (the deconstruction of old reality)
- Reentering Newton time from a new perspective (psychological integration has taken place)
At any rate, the Red Knight curse is gone, Anne and Jack are back together and happy, Parry has his damsel, and Jack and Parry go cloudbusting nude in Central Park together.
At the end of the day, who cares what happened – as long as you can break apart clouds with your mind while lying nude next to a good buddy? Hang on… am I going crazy?
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Jason Schroeder, one of my readers, passed along this video series of Robert Bly and Michael Meade. As always, I happily pass along the information. It’s golden as usual. And a great opportunity for me to get to know Michael Meade a little bit. I have never seen him “in the flesh” before and I really enjoyed it. They form a dynamic due for sure!
Part #1: Fathers and Sons
Part #2: An Old Conversation, The Lonely Heart
Part #3: The Warrior, Mythology & Killing The Lizard
A lot of what they talk about in the Warrior segment is closely related to my treatment of Last Samurai.
Part #4: Initiation
Part #5: Toward a Men’s movement, Grief
Part #6: Blessing
Good stuff, huh?
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After a long wait, the video for the Warrior archetype is finally ready. (note that the 3-4 first minutes drag on a bit and then it gets more fun)
This video was recorded at the same time as the video for the King archetype (in Holland, December 2010) with Peter Kessels and Pelle Billing as my audience. I learned a lot by watching myself and receiving feedback from you after releasing that one and I would have done this video on the Warrior differently and more structured if I had a chance to redo the take. But I’m going to release it anyway, warts and all, and hope that it helps some of you. It has certainly helped me to record it.
I will record the Magician at the beginning of March. I will take whatever feedback you have offered me for the King and the Warrior (below) into consideration when doing that one.
- When I speak about sadomasochism at one point in the movie, I speak about the total shadowcomplex of the Warrior archetype. I’m not referring to the sexual deviation.
- When I refer to the mother being present in the relationship of a man with poor internal warriors, I don’t refer to her physical presence. I refer to the presence of a limiting feminine force inside the relationship that can be traced to the man’s relationship to his mother.
- In one section, I refer to the presence of shadow Warrior in environmental activist groups, new agers etc. I can, however, think of healthy Warrior energy in these organizations, especially environmental ones. Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd come to mind, even though I don’t really know them at all. (would be nice with feedback about this below)
EDITOR’S NOTE: I include this in **the Door** section of the Journal because of the pervasive use of profanity – which I personally admire, but which may offend some folks reading the journal. And the question to look at with this posting? How have you engaged with the ‘Dark’ feminine in your life? What shadows have you become aware of connected to your interactions with women – especially in the realm of seduction and sexual ‘conquest’?
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Ah, Braveheart… I remember leaving the movie theater that evening in 1995. I was seventeen, clueless and inspired. Something stirred inside and I could tell my friends had been impacted as well. Yep, we loved it and for many years to come, when asked my favourite movie, Braveheart was my answer.
With time I came to understand that I yearn for total and unmitigated freedom above all else. Freedom to express, to love, to penetrate and expand. And as William Wallace let out his “FREEEEEDOM!” at the end of my adolescent years, somehow that need was met – to taste, if only tangentially, a life lived from such a place…
It’s our wits that make us men
We enter the story in 1280. The King of Scotland has died without an heir and the cruel King Edward Longshanks has claimed the throne for himself. One day, he lures many Scottish nobles to a barn under a banner of truce and has them hanged. William’s father gathers the clan to fight.
There is a magnificent scene in which William’s father and older brother prepare to battle the English. “I can fight!,” William screams. What a bold statement – likely to be met with scorn by many modern parents. But Daddy Malcolm pauses, turns to face his son and gently tells him “I know. I know you can fight.” He smiles knowingly. “But it’s our wits that make us men.”
This scene moves me. Instead of collapsing into shame when being confronted with his son’s capacity for aggression, Malcolm recognizes the moment is ripe for mentorship. This scene points to the challenging job of every father to, without shaming him, embrace the Warrior archetype in his son and channel its vast energies into constructive, world-building pursuits (for the many new age fathers who are trapped in the masochistic shadow pole, this is virtually impossible).
A man dies. A brother takes his place
Some time later, the men who set out to battle the English return with broken spirits, pulling a heavy chariot with bodies on it. “Come here lad,” one of them says with a voice imbued with gentle, loving strength. There is something so nourishing about the way these men address young William, even when bringing the dark tidings of his father’s and brother’s death. A part of me feels yearning inside when I watch these scenes – no man ever addressed me like that when I was wee lad.
Then uncle Argyle arrives. Argyle is the mentor, appearing as if summoned by his brother’s last breath. And it is as it should be; in many ancient cultures, it is the uncle’s responsibility to bring the boy into manhood, as aboriginal elder Bob Randall reminded me when I spoke with him in September.
The teaching is about to begin.
Many years later, William returns. We can but imagine his adventures. And as we will soon find, Argyle has done a fine job with his nephew. William quickly courts Murron and gets his way – his Lover archetype is healthy and the scene where he returns her thistle moving. I see it as a gentle reminder of how we can be soft and romantic, especially faced with the woman we love, without losing our masculinity; that is precisely the gift of the Lover archetype.
William and Murron marry clandestinely in a forest clearing one night, to avoid the horrific implications of primae noctis.
Their marriage is a short one. Murron is killed by the local magistrate and William returns to avenge her. Having defeated the English troops, the clans soon rally behind William, looking to him for leadership. It seems that a man who is willing to risk, risks becoming a leader. And though he desired but peace and a family, William now finds himself the unlikely leader of a rebellion.
And thus he picks up the sword left by his father. There is something quite electric about a man’s experience of getting to know, in his adult years most likely, his father’s (sometimes well hidden) goodness and vision for life (this journey is described well in the movie Robin Hood). In being given the chance to bring a father’s seed to fruition, a man finds in some well hidden, moist and mourning part of his heart enormous power of lineage.
The dark father
Enter Robert the Bruce, a key character and the main contender for the Scottish crown. I’m fascinated by him. He wants to do the right and noble thing, but is torn between his own inner conviction and the toxic advice from his rotting father. This miserable, forlorn man that hides in a tower is reminiscent of Darth Vader – powerful in a way, yet greedy for power to the point of losing his humanity (though even in him exists a soft spot where he mourns the life he didn’t live). And just like Darth Vader, he is a Shadow Magician, a cynical manipulator.
It could be that we all have a dark father, and though that dark matter may (or may not) be but trace elements in our own biological father, there is something archetypal going on here. We all have, I believe, a man in a tower somewhere who tells us lies for our “own good”. And when we heed his voice, we and those around us suffer. (Get to know that voice and fight it. That tower needs to burn! New age embrace won’t work here.)
Robert is inspired by William and inspiration is something his father does not understand. For his is a closed heart, void of any juice and joy. Be real wary of taking advice from such a person.
At the fields of Stirling, William rouses the Scottish troops and Argyle lingers on the wind as the Scotsmen rise their spears in defiance of English cavalry. Soon, the English tuck tail and a blood-stained William rises his sword as a roar of victory ripples through the weary troops. William’s Warrior archetype is at the peak of its power.
Despite their defeat of the English Northern Army, the Scottish nobles remain one bickering crowd, as is often the case with those who care for politics (too much brain, too little heart and body). William is no politician. And his leadership is of a temporary kind – alive only as long as Scotland’s sons and daughters don’t know freedom. It’s not that he is void of the King archetype, it’s just that he is not destined to be the leader of a people. His vision is of a simple life: A house, a woman and children. He is not a ruler for times of peace.
No, Scotland’s future leadership lies in the hands of Robert the Bruce and it is with the harmonizing grace of his King archetype that William finds the strength to invade England and claim York.
Things are looking up for Scotland. Though Murron, sadly, remains just as dead.
The dream collapses
Princess Isabelle, the French princess who marries Edward Longshank’s effeminate, weakling son (trust the son of a tyrant to become a weakling), becomes William’s unlikely ally. She is fascinated by him. He is a true man, unlike her wimpy husband and the rest of the shut down men that lurk England’s halls of power. A woman would do a lot, it seems, to honor true manhood (having a mission in life is real sexy to a woman. Just ask one).
But the Scottish nobles honor power and property – what else is there to love when your non-integrity steals your self-fulfillment? Surely, hiding self-contempt with pursuits of material gain is no way to live! At Falkirk, they turn their backs on Scotland. Selfish, single-minded hunt for property destroys all men in the end.
When William in one scene pulls off the helmet of a knight who just charged him, only to realize it’s Robert the Bruce, something important happens. William has trusted Robert and now he finds himself betrayed. As I watch this scene, a thought enters my mind: If I were to break the trust of a friend, I would want him to react like this. If this level of hurt is not present at my betrayal, it is a friendship not quite worth having. I am saying that from now on, I want Brotherhood above all else, and you simply don’t betray a Brother (are you with me?).
Bruce is torn apart by his ravaging guilt and tries to put things right. But his dark father intervenes and William is captured by the English. Bruce’s heart is decimated. William Wallace dies (with a scream that still echoes from my adolescent years).
It is with Murron’s bridal cloth in hand that Bruce continues William’s legacy and claims Scotland’s freedom at the fields of Banockburn. We imagine that his heart is put at rest somehow by this, through some sort of spiritual alchemy inherent in fulfilling any true legacy. And we conclude that one Scottish man’s love for a good woman carried within it the power to free a people.
Love and freedom. Really Brothers, what else is worth living for?
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Just got a new book delivery from my good friend Ann Kristin out in Australia (she’s who connected me with Uncle Bob). It’s called Finding Neverland – Why little boys shouldn’t run big corporations and is written by a bloke by the name of Daniel Prokop.
Check this out (from the back of the book):
In the Western world, it seems that most adults don’t want to grow up but have lost the joy and freedom of being childlike and in a desperate attempt to stay young forever have achieved eternal childishness, rather than eternal youth.
When little boys in designer suits convinced authorities that they should be put in charge of the banking cookie jar, we shouldn’t be surprised when they help themselves to the cookies
And when little boys playing in the Gulf of Mexico break one of their shiny toys and make a catastrophic mess, sure it is obvious that it is time for us to leave Neverland.
In this fascinating, humorous and provocative book, Daniel Prokop argues that contemporary Rites of Passage offer us all a timely way to finally grow up.
And possibly save the world.
This could be a good read!