What maketh a man?

What maketh a man? What are the attributes, skills, qualities that go into defining a ‘Man’? Unfortunately for me, the answer to that question did not come that easy. For starters I cannot just say ‘this is man’ and expect everyone to meet that standard. The phenotypic expression of man will be personal to the individual. What I am as a man will not be what you are as one. We are all individuals (I’m not). I have been accused of being ‘manly’. Being told that I can be manly led me to question what exactly this ‘manly’ is. I didn’t personally feel overly manly nor un-manly, so I was curious as to what I was displaying to others, what were they seeing there? No one could answer that question with any sort of satifactiory solid response. 

It was just a ‘thing’.

So is this thing inherent in all men? Are there certain qualities that we define as manly that are common across cultures? And are these qualities transferable, teachable? 
The more I searched for the answer the more I found it elusive. In fact there more I pressed people for answers the more it seemed to delve in the macho faux masculinity bullshit that defines the facsimile of man. The only way I could define it was through abstract, by defining what it was not – and in that I found abundant examples.
“He’s like a rock. I just don’t know how he feels”
“Domestic abuse is perpetrated by cowards. They are also probably victims themselves”
“I hate it when a guy can’t make up his mind”
“He takes longer to get ready than I do”
These are all quotes from conversations I have had with women. The list of complaints goes on. And on. To be fair, I don’t blame them for complaining. I was somewhat dumbstruck but some of the behaviors I was hearing about. 
Through this abstraction of man though, I began to find patterns or common threads of attributes that crossed generations and cultures – what seemed to be a ‘natural state’ of man started to emerge. 
I also found that I certainly was not alone in my search for this. The more I dug the more I uncovered other pioneers in this work who, like me, have felt the impending doom of lost Manhood. In fact this theme seems to echo down through the ages, like a cycle. But more on that another time
As I started to see the themes again and again it started to solidify in my head, a kind of ‘treasure map of man’ (cue “It’s Raining Men”).
I saw attributes, attributes that to me could be personified in characters, or archetypes. Ok so I’m a geek and by archetypes I mean ‘D&D character classes’. But still you get the point.
These archetypes came along with a whole slew of psychological ‘backstory’, after all that’s why we have archetypes, to short cut a long explaination. These back stories stating looking a lot like a Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Of course there’s the obvious link to C.G. Jung’s work here (he’s another one of my ‘Dead Mentors’) but one slight difference. The attributes, for me, boiled down to seven. Now where have we seen that before… (Apart from everywhere). Seven Chakras. Surprise, surprise the seven psychological states of the archetypes lined up with the chakras. 

It’s important to point out here that my belief is that we have too much emphasis on the bodily location of chakras (in the western world at least). I see the chakras much more as a psychological step ladder. The points on the body are representative of those states, much in the same way as an archetype is representative (or framework) for a collection of ideas. If I say my gonads we can assume it has something to do with sexuality. I’m not stating my gonads are sexuality.

I now have what’s ended up looking like a hotch potch of ideas and theories throughout time. But it made sense to me, and that’s what’s important, after all this is my search for answers.

It’s through these systems and through observations of my own journey that I began to formulate this construct – The archetypes of man – and thus start to answer my own question: ‘What maketh a man?’
More importantly than just answering it, forming it into some sort coherent legible answer that others can read and furiously agree with (I assume). It’s really a deconstruction of my journey thus far, of the mechanisms I went through to reach a certain psychological ‘awareness’. It’s how I got to outwardly displaying those afore mentioned ‘things’ that are seen as manly.

This is a much more important point that what my rambling notions look like. The fact of self enquiry leads down a path of self analysis, and to know thy self is to know the universe. The question should be asked, and the answer sought, by all people. By asking and then continually searching we start ourselves on a path of self discovery, for both men and women. 

So, what is a man?


The Beginning of an End (for me at least)

Ah the whirlwind of emotions that is the U.S. Of A. There have only been two places in the world that I have ever, truly, considered living outside of Australia: New Zealand and North America. Each time I arrive I always ask myself the same question “Why wasn’t I here sooner?”.

Maybe it has something to do with the 36 hours of flights, buses, terminals and lost luggage. 

But as I cruise through the sleeping streets of a very warm night in Boulder, none of that matters. The air smells sweet, sweeter still with the knowledge that I’ll be reunited with my lover soon. I arrive at the address, there’s a camper van in the driveway, our temporary home for the night. She spills out into the night air, nude and more than half asleep, straight into my arms. It’s like no time has passed at all.

Only, time has passed. 2 months in fact.

This fact becomes painfully aware the next morning in a cafe. Questions are asked, questions that are not aimed at a jet lagged, travel weary brain. Questions aimed at my heart. Questions of it’s absence. Tears are spilled. Coffees go cold.

We knew separation would not be easy. Chels has been traveling for 2 months, but not just traveling. She has been experiencing. She has been doing beautiful, opening soul work, plunging into her depths, connecting with amazing people, both in group settings (in courses) and personally through reacquainting herself with her family. 

Juxtapose this with my life. I have been static, hidden in our beautiful forest home. I have been grinding the ‘usual’, stressing about work, lamenting a seperation from my lover in a setting where everything reminds me of her, restraining a collapse into ‘ash work’ (ash work is in reference to a term I first heard from Robert Bly’s thesis on modern man ‘Iron John’. It refers to the base work that a man goes through after he has ‘burnt out’ been destroyed in some way or voluntarily gone underground to soul work).

It’s not like I haven’t grown, we have just grown in vastly different ways. Whilst hers has been uplifting, mine has been constricting. A breath in, though at the point where I am staring at her tears in a cafe in Boulder the realization hits me. Too long have I dallied in my hidden home. Too long have I tried to hold myself back from the ashes, from the collapse. It’s time to let go, to be burnt and destroyed. It’s time to breath out.

I bow my head. I open my heart. I cry too now and admit my short comings. I promise to see her, if she will see me too.

And so sets the tone for the journey, the realization of why I am here and what stage of my life I’m at. It is the destruction of the old. It’s time to bravely step into the fire and allow myself to be turned to ash, so that something else may grow from from the fertile ground. To have faith to let go of the broken image of ego that I’m holding onto and allow the Phoenix to rise.

Bit by bit it has become more obvious to me. Revelations are exposed at the right time, as they need to be (if you choose to listen though is another question) but I still had surprise that I had not realized this sooner. My own theory, based on looking back at my life, showed that at every seven years, my life cycle has changed, I have changed. At each of these points, a rite of passage happened (or at least needed to) in order to move to the next stage of my life. 7, 14, 21, 28…35. I turn 35 in 3 months [slaps my palm onto my forehead].

This is the beautiful thing about a conscious relationship. Within its container, there are no taboos, no words left unsaid. If something is wrong (or right), then it’s brought up, processed and then acted upon. Growth is accelerated. In this case not only the growth of the relationship, but my personal growth. Without this emotional ‘kick in the ass’, I don’t know if I would have been motivated to critically look at myself in this way. It set me on my path of change, of growth, and for this I am eternally grateful to her, both as a person and as the power that she represents.