We’re Not Ready Yet, But Soon

Exploring the edge of maleness

One of the articles in Friends & Lovers (IC#10)
Originally published in Summer 1985 on page 47
Copyright (c)1985, 1997 by Context Institute

Danaan is director of Holyearth Foundation, through which he practices conflict resolution around the world. His focus these days is citizen diplomacy with the USSR, and he has been organizing people-to-people trips to that country. He is also deeply interested in new images for men and women today. His article on "The Dance of Male and Female in Intentional Community" appeared in the first issue of IN CONTEXT (Winter, 1983).

I CAN SEE ANDY through the fire. He’s hopping from one foot to the other in some rhythmic way, to some perhaps ancient beat inside of him. The flames from our driftwood campfire leap thirty feet in the air, and I am starting to feel that feeling again. It’s the one that I feel every time I huddle around a campfire, and I get very hot on one side of my body and very cold on the other side. Suddenly I am no longer in this time, this place. I am somewhere, some ancient place and I am naked and my muscles and tendons resonate to some primal energy and I am man at the awakening of . . . I don’t know what. I lose it at that point, as though I am not supposed to remember. Not yet!

And so here we are, Andy and me, and Bob, and a half dozen other men. It is spring equinox and we have come together to spend the night on this beach. Another group, all women, have chosen to spend the night on the mountain ridge. Separately, we will evoke the energies of our gender: we will try to open to our own, brothers to brothers, sisters to sisters, beyond role and game and expectation. We will try. We will use ritual and dance and story and whatever we can to explore who is this being, man; who is this being, woman. And we have talked of what to do in the morning. An agreement – we, the men, will come to a meadow between the ocean shore and the mountain ridge. The women, too, will come. We will meet, and see what happens. We will try.

But now it’s midnight, or one, or two, and my brothers and I are hot on one side and cold on the other. I am me and not me; I am very new and very old, and through it all I know that I am man. It feels so incredibly good, incredibly right, to be here with these men in this way.

Later, the poet Robert Bly would give me a framework for these feelings, as he re-introduces me to the masculine archetype of the "wildman" ("What Men Really Want," New Age Journal, May 1982). This aspect of the male being is a deep, subconscious source of primary energy which, Bly contends, has been ignored by men in our desire to integrate the softer, more intuitive feminine aspects into our personas. Certainly, the macho, hostile behaviors of most present male cultural stereotypes are in sore need of balancing. This can be done, and in many ways is being done, by men who are allowing the feminine aspects (that each of us men have within us) to emerge and enrich our lives. Beneath this outer male/female balance though, lies a more primary power source that must have means of expression for wholeness to be experienced. Bly calls this the "wildman" in men.

For now though, there is only the heat of the fire and my brothers and it is enough. I am full as I have not been full for a very, very long time.

Now the sun shows its first glow over the ridge, and Andy is pulling me towards the water’s edge. And now we are naked and running through the ocean surf and screaming. God, I love to scream. I mean really scream. I’m freezing. The March Pacific ocean laps against my genitals, and the morning sun paints its way over the ridge, across the lagoon and spills over my trembling body. From my belly button up, I am golden and warm, from there down I am sea-green and cold. And that ancient feeling is with me again.

From somewhere in me, from a place so deep I had not known it existed in me, there comes forth another scream. Not from my throat, my voice, my lungs, but from my belly, from some dark deep cave in the bowels of me. The scream explodes from me, an orgasm of emotion. You may have heard it! It was that loud, that powerful. My brothers stood frozen, drinking me in. Then, their screams echoed mine as we bathed the beach in joy. We frolicked. Have you ever seen grown men frolic? I thought my heart would burst.

And then the awareness of what had happened sank into me. There, in this freezing water, for the first moment in my life, I felt man and felt no guilt for it. Yes, for all my life, at some level just below my conscious awareness, I had felt guilty about being a man. Why? Perhaps because of some images of men as the "violent ones," the destroyers, the war- makers. I don’t know; all I know is that it had been there, this low-grade chronic inability to fully embrace who I am. And now it was gone. Purged. Released.

The molten, churning powerhouse of primal energy that lies within my maleness is neither good nor evil – it is simply pure energy. My consciousness is the force that decides how this vast store of primal energy is used. And because I and so many of my brothers are growing in consciousness, we are becoming ready to own our "wildman." We are beginning to honor the powerful inner broadsword of creative action that is our way of manifesting Light in physical form.

For the first time all night, we brothers shared words, as we excitedly talked of our fear and guilt and confusion. Of the relationships that were "supposed" to bring us happiness, the success that was promised to bring us fulfillment. And now we, here, committing ourselves, our man-selves, to use our strength, our will, our power to create not destroy, to love not fear, to contribute what only man-energy can contribute to the creation of a peace-filled future for our world.

We are do-ers, and we are learning to direct our do-ing energy in ways of service and wholeness. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Anwar Sadat are glowing examples of men who have owned their inner broadsword.

It was time to go to the meadow. The women would be there. Perhaps some clarity about the next step would be there. In our circle before we left the beach, we shared how hard it was to leave, to let go of this togetherness-beyond- ego. And we shared how important it is to keep our commitments. And so we walked together towards the meadow.

We could see the women coming down the trail from the mountain. Images of warm hugs and soft smells were with me now. But as we approached the women, I noticed that my body was beginning to close, just a bit. My shoulders were hunching forward, just a bit. My freely swinging hips were becoming just a bit more controlled, more proper. Others noticed their body responses too. We were returning.

Then we were together, men and women, people who care deeply for each other. We were looking at each other, saying nothing. For a long time. One of the women broke the difficult silence. She said, "Not yet."

We all knew what she meant. We turned and walked away. No more words were spoken for many hours. Feelings of sadness and rightness swept through me. We had touched something during that night, something so deep and vital that for me, man, and she, woman, to attempt to come together at that level would have been impossible. For now.

There will come a time when men and women will come together at that level. But first men, as men, and women, as women, must explore the depths, the incredible depths of who they are. They/we must risk and open and explore and claim the woman-power and the man-power that live in that cave deep within and yet beyond ourselves. We have only just begun.

When men and women have done that work and then come together, the co-creation from that union will move us from where we are to where we were meant to be.

I ask myself, "What is this man-power, this deeper manifestation of who-I-am-as-man?" And the words that come to me are create, risk, explore, challenge, thrust, go beyond. And more – all having that old, old feeling in me that I have come to associate, in my societal experience, with "getting in trouble." Hmmmm.

The Trouble With Men… I’m walking along a beach, just relaxing and enjoying the day. No one around except the sea gulls and maybe a harbor seal. My car is up on the road, and so I begin the ascent to the top of the cliff, up the gradual, nicely laid-out State Park trail. But then my eye catches a glimpse of some interesting rocks to my left. I’ll bet I could make it up that way. It’s steep, no trail, loose rocks. What if I fell? Why take the chance? But in me there is no question. My pants get filthy, my hand gets cut, it’s an hour longer and I love it. What’s that all about?

I’m driving a motorcycle along the coast highway. The bike is humming, every one of the hundreds of little parts performing just right, to create a harmony, and I as driver am a part of that harmony. At the same moment I am in charge of this assemblage and only a part of it, a piece of the whole. Is this just macho bullshit, or do I really experience a living connection to all of this? I feel a balance of me and us; me and the machine and the us that emerges from all of the parts working just right.

There’s a curve coming up. I can see the road far ahead of it. If I take the curve at this speed there’s a risk. Five miles an hour faster and I know I’ll lose it. Five miles an hour slower asks nothing of me, of us. So what, there’s nobody around to prove anything to. But I know already, beyond questions, beyond analysis, what I will do. I begin to feel that old body response to my adrenal glands doing their job. I can feel my parasympathetic nervous system flipping to alert, to "on-line, everybody . . . all hands on deck." My biocomputer shifts to high speed data analysis: "probability of patch of gravel around curve . . . probability of error in judgment about clear road ahead . . . awareness of amount of tread on tire . . . " My vision clears, focuses, soft eyes to take in the big picture, muscles alert and relaxed at the same time. We’re going in. Not me, we. Every cell in me, every gene, every bolt and piston and spoke.

And the curve is behind us now. We goes back to me and me develops a cold sweat, and I can feel my left brain start to ask questions and make judgments: "You ass, you hot dog, you macho jerk. Why do you do those dumb things?"

Maybe because it’s one of the very few ways that my culture allows me, that I allow me, to give life to an ancient need.

You see, it is the nature of masculinity to feel and to desire the experience of intensity, of living at the edge, of challenge and risk-taking. That is not all we are, but it is a natural, deep, wonderful part of who we are. This is the "inner fire" that infuses our actions with aliveness.

I have talked to so many Vietnam vets, my brothers who have experienced kill and/or be killed. They, most of them, ache. They are lost. And they whisper to me of a terrible awareness that on the battlefield, facing probable death, they felt, for the first time in their life, fully alive. And every experience since then has had a meaningless mediocre taste to it. How are we to make sense of all this? And we must!

We cannot simplistically demand that men stop this foolishness and think it will work. It’s so much deeper than that. Do you think that there have not been "peace movements" for thousands of years? Do you think that women have not been begging and demanding men for thousands of years to evolve beyond their dominating, oppressive, violent behavior? Do you think that simply beating our swords into plowshares will change anything? What will we do with all those plowshares?

There is an intensity to maleness. It has something to do with pushing limits, with trying the untryable, with risking what is for what could be. And it has caused a lot of trouble. This intensity has manifested in ways that pit us against one- another, that inflate or deflate our personal egos, and that objectify whatever or whomever gets in our way. So what to do?

In recent years we have tried, to one degree or another, to let go of these macho, manipulative ways of expressing our maleness. We, some of us, have tried to embrace that softer, gentler, intuitive "feminine" nature that surely lives within each man. It is a worthwhile and necessary movement.

And now, after some difficult-wonderful years of exploring my yin, my receptive nature, I am beginning to hear the soft wisdom of my inner voice, my intuitive self. It whispers to me that my next journey in awareness is not towards androgyny, rather to deeper levels of maleness. To explore that creative, passionate risker, that limit-pusher that burns to live 100%, beyond macho, beyond any need to prove his worth.

We must never "cork the volcano" of our male intensity. (Corked volcanoes explode.) We must develop the clarity and the self-love to direct its awesome power for good. Our world cries out for men to move beyond their role-playing and beyond their guilt, and to unlock that deep fertile maleness that lives in us. Humankind hungers for this good, grounded male energy, just as surely as it hungers for clear deep, powerful woman energy. And the integration of those creative forces will birth something very new, very wonderful.

Not yet, but soon!

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