Everything is Happening, All the Time
In the wake of tragedy. Masculinity, Culture, and Transformation
by Boysen Hodgson
The question, for me, is what is the QUALITY of this risky world? How am I co-creating it? What are the feelings I want to be nurturing in myself and others, even as the world continues to spin and the universe unwinds in its chaotic beauty and devastation.
I am sad. Have been deeply sad for the last 48 hours. And yet there is beauty. My wife, Kendra, and I went to a dance performance last night, a holiday tradition we have carried the last 5 years.
At one point there was a long silent moment when all 12 dancers were standing in a small group on the center of the stage, with not one looking into the face of another. Close together, and disconnected. Longing unfulfilled. It was a mirror for so much of what I see around me.
I cried in sadness, yes. I also cried in gratitude. Because I know something. I know what I have seen and felt in circles of men. I know what I have witnessed in the fierce gentleness of men supporting one another. I know what it feels like to completely break down and be held by loving men.
With that experience – I have learned how to create stronger intimacy and partnership with my wife. I have learned to open my heart to my friends and family more deeply. Because I have taken that deep risk to be FULLY ME as a vulnerable man, my risk-filled world feels warm and human instead of cold, frightening, and alien.
I have read lots of … WHY AREN’T WE DOING SOMETHING? …
Brothers, Sisters, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Children (all my relations!) … from my guts, I’m crying out …
I know what healthy masculinity looks like, feels like, and acts like.
It’s not perfect. It will not prevent every violent act. It will not be without wounding, pain, and disconnection.
And for damned sure, it will not always look the way I want it to look.
Until I sacrifice some of my expectations, demands, and assumptions … it’s damned hard to be part of the solution.
‘Cauldrons’ for culture change
At times, in the right places, with strong bonds and boundaries firmly in place … groups of men take the risk to create events that are raw, real, and completely unfiltered, just for men. They put on training programs and form groups that hold space for masculinity be dangerous, vulnerable, ashamed, naked, violent, messy, ugly, terrifying, chaotic, and louder than thunder. These men do not deny or hide anything. They do this on purpose.
They witness violent revolutions, glorious rebirth, and shattering grief. They take on the masks of madmen, fools, children, and the dead. They create a ritual place to enact the dramas that the western world is trying to live (and avoid living!) vicariously through digital screens. They invite men to say what is unspeakable, and create what was unimaginable. And from the cauldron, whole men emerge. Men with self-awareness and more choices about how they show up in the world.
These men are our community – around the world.
We do this with the intention to put LOVE into action in the world. We learn about ourselves and each other from this ritual. We go into it consciously. We help men see new possibilities.
Healthy Masculinity is not safe, or clean, or easy. It’s not even a destination. It’s a PRACTICE, a PROCESS … a Hero’s Journey. Can we can strip the violence out of masculinity? A look at history says NO, but who knows what is possible. Can we ‘destroy’ the cultural construct of masculinity? Don’t think of a purple elephant.
Can we impact how men PRACTICE the cultural construct of masculinity? WE ALREADY ARE!! We are here! And it’s not just men! We are myriad men and women working together to recreate our culture.
What we do in the cauldron is not masculine or feminine. It is HUMAN. As an organization we do our work with men on their own in order to break a significant taboo about men sharing emotions, intimacy, and vulnerability with other men. We break, rather than reinforce, the gender box. We give the chance to practice in a place where the real world consequences of what might happen when the social filters are disabled does not wound those we love.
What do we do with REALITY … with what is right here, right now, violence and all?
Here’s what I strive to do, and what I see other men doing:
I do not deny a man connection and compassion because he is not the kind of man I want him to be. I acknowledge reality. The only way I will ever create possibility is in relationship – meeting him face to face, right where he is. Not standing above him, or judging him, or telling him why he is wrong. I have to be willing to put down my shield and reveal myself in the hope that he may do the same. And I do not run away. I stand there. I stay there. I wait there.
And this is inherently, profoundly, dangerous. It might threaten or undermine my deeply held beliefs. I might see something in him that reminds me of myself in a way that brings shame or guilt or sadness. I might be rejected. I might have to get close to what I fear. And I might get hurt.
To men sitting and wondering, what now?
Set aside fear and judgment long enough to see what a loving and imperfect community of men feels like. Put down hipster sarcasm, academic loftiness, enlightened spiritual bypass. Put down your cell, your ipad, your game controller, your remote, your car keys, your credentials, your fear of being ‘found out’, your past. Put down all the buts, becauses, and not right nows.
The world is a risky place.
This risk I’m asking you to take could change the way the rest of the world feels, looks, and responds to you. It could change your entire perception of what it means to be a man.
There’s absolutely, positively, fundamentally and with 100% certainty – no guarantee or warranty. No one is getting out of here alive. We offer an opportunity, a mere chance, to change the QUALITY of that aliveness.
Imagine the culture that might surround our young men if every day on the street they see what I know in my bones. Imagine the difference in the interactions between men and women … at the bank, the grocery store … on the sidewalk in their town. There are places in the USA where this is already happening – pockets of this kind of community. We have been helping to create this. And we’re not alone.
WE ARE HERE!
This is an invitation.
It’s way bigger than me.
More than 2 years ago I wrote a piece called “The New Macho.” It has now been republished on numerous blogs and in at least one book.
Here are four lines from “The New Macho”
He knows future generations are watching his actions.
He builds communities where people are respected and valued.
He takes responsibility for himself.
In times of need, he will be his brother’s keeper.
– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.