MenWeb logoMenWeb   

The Beauty of our Suffering

Copyright © 1998 by David Shakleton

 

Help us help men
$20  
Every $20 helps!
 

I live on a beautiful wooded lot just outside Ottawa, Ontario, and as I write, the "storm of the century" is burying eastern Ontario and Quebec under two inches of ice, and an estimated three million people are without electricity to their homes. Outside my window, birch and willow trees, their branches sheathed with an inch of ice, are bent to the ground. Other species, less flexible, are either snapped right off, or still standing defiantly. Mother nature, in the form of an unusual weather system, is culling and reproving her children. I am one man who wants to understand the lesson.

Yesterday, I stood studying a maple tree that stands near my house. The light shining through the thick ice on its branches gave it a transcendent glow, like a halo around it. It was magnificently beautiful. And yet, I knew that the ice that gave it such magnificence was also torturing it, multiplying the weight of its upper branches many times, stressing it to the limit, and perhaps beyond. I know that it may not survive this peak of beauty, might be crippled and broken within a day or two. I was reminded of the Christ archetype, of the beauty of heroic suffering in service of spirit and human potential.

Later, as I drove slowly and carefully along icy roads, I noticed that other drivers, going as slowly as I, smiled and waved as they passed. And radio reports tell of widespread acts of kindness and generosity, that I had heard usually accompany a disaster, but had never before witnessed. What is it about pain and loss that brings us closer, that makes us more human, more forgiving, more beautiful? It almost seems to defy logic. When there is no urgency and we have time to give to others, it seems that then we don't, but instead pursue our own narrow interests. When we seem to be at risk of losing all and we might be forgiven for becoming mean and bitter and grasping, instead we gather together and help each other.

On the radio today, an expert in emergency communications was being questioned about how well we were responding to the emergency. One question was, "What about the gender factors?" His answer was (something like), "Yes, that's an important aspect. Most of the hydro crews, the police and firefighters are male, so you have to worry about their wives and children, left to fend for themselves in their homes." Not a word about how those male crews and teams are risking their lives, climbing power poles slick with ice, working in freezing rain, handling live wires carrying thousands of volts. No, his concern was for the women and children, left at home without a man to take care of things in this time of emergency. In common modern fashion, his response was both dismissive of male service and sacrifice, and patronizing towards women. The radio interviewer, also male, didn't seem to find anything remarkable in this response; he moved onto his next question.

In the last forty years, we have seen feminism turn from a movement seeking genuine equality with men to a victim-oriented, gender-discriminatory movement hiding behind the rhetoric of equality. Literally millions of fathers have been cast from their homes, treated as walking wallets and alienated from their own children. Let us not kid ourselves: our gender is enduring a protracted emergency. The pain and suffering is real, and growing. And, while women may have written the modern gender script, it is not just women, but also the majority of men who, like the radio interviewer and emergency expert, overlook the pain and suffering of men, and worry conscientiously about the perceived problems of women. Like mother nature sending an ice storm to test and cull, so the mother archetype has sent a gender storm to test and cull and reprove us. The weight of the ice, the frozen patterns of chivalry, reinforced by modern ideology, is growing daily. How much more can we stand? How many men will be broken under its weight before we will say, enough?

I look forward to a time when our suffering will begin to draw us together. A time when we will start to see and honour the beauty, the deep soul lessons that our pain and loss are offering us. A time when we will recognize that we are caught in a disaster, and begin to cooperate with each other to solve our problems, to actually heal each other and our damaged culture. A time when we will put aside our other interests for a while, and mobilize and organize and finally recognize that we need to give this emergency our urgent attention and special resources, across the whole breadth of our culture, our institutions, policies and laws. I am sure that such a time will come. I suspect that the path we are currently on, the storm that we are enduring, can be turned around in no other way.

In the meantime, I am reminded of how I felt as I looked at the ice-covered maple. Although I could see its massive strain and suffering, I could literally do nothing to help it. And, I felt at peace with that fact. The weather, the ice storm, is. The acts of the gods are not to be questioned, but accepted and learned from. Either the tree will endure and survive, or it will not. My role is to see it clearly, to appreciate its beauty and to honour its suffering, and to be ready to help when an opportunity arises. So too with men. We are suffering, and we are beautiful in our suffering, and all is as it should be. Our magnificence is being thrown into sharp relief, the better to be seen by all. There is great pain and there is tragic loss, and it is not wrong. Rather, our task is to endure it with patience and appreciate it with honour, until finally the time is right to heal and to grow again. Then, there will finally be opportunities to speak about what is happening in public forums, and to be heard at last. Opportunities to take the lead in describing what must be done, and to articulate the vision that we hold of true gender equality. Such opportunities will surely come, and may not be far away. We will be ready.

David Shackleton is the editor and publisher of Everyman, A Men's Journal, Canada's only regular magazine of the men's movement. Correspond with him, or write for a free copy, to PO Box 4617, Station E, Ottawa, ON K1S 5H8, Canada, email editor@everyman.org. Website: www.everyman.org


Help us help men
$20  
Every $20 helps!

Articles | Men's Stories | Poetry | What's here? | Home Page | Search MenWeb | E-mail MenWeb

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return