I am one of the men who attended the Sixth Florida Men's Gathering last April in Orlando. For me and my son Seth, it provided an opportunity for healthy communion with other men, spiritual renewal, and personal growth. We traveled nearly a thousand miles in three days to be there.
Unfortunately, the event was sabotaged by the anti-social behavior of one man, which was in turn, validated (to a degree) by a small minority of other men. The effect was to take the entire gathering hostage in a selfish, ego-centric grab for power that totally discounted the needs of the greater whole of the community of men .
Ironically, the seeds of this had been sewn the year before, when the same man disrupted that year's activities by "challenging" the wisdom of the Elders. Because we're tolerant men, who are (in general) committed to the concept of accepting a man wherever he may be in his life's journey, (as well as helping him in the process of growing and becoming), this behavior was not only tolerated, it was validated. Despite the detour caused by this man's subversive behavior, we were able to remain inclusive and open hearted, even able to incorporate the manifestation of his shadow side into the positive whole. But we were naive.
Apparently not satisfied with the discord he'd fostered at the previous year's gathering, he returned last weekend with vicious malevolence. In an act of supreme arrogance and disdain for those of us who gathered there with prayerful hearts, this man desecrated the sacred ground of the Sweat Lodge. He did this by insisting on doing it "his" way, in defiance of the water pourer who was serving as spiritual guide, and in total disregard of the needs of the other men gathered for the ritual. In doing so, he defiled the purpose and intent of the Lodge, which is one of healing and reconciliation with all of our relations. Later, after he had ensured that we who were gathered there would not have the blessing of the Lodge Ceremony, he and his cronies further befouled the holy ground by getting drunk on vodka, in direct disregard of the guidelines agreed to by each man who registered to attend the weekend.
This was not Coyote. This was not Trickster. This was a willful act of calculated contempt, perpetrated on our gathering by what Robert Moore has referred to as an uninitiated "Monster Boy". My friend Flying Elk later commented to me that his behavior was equivalent to defecating on the alter of a local church. (Let us not lose sight of the fact that these events occurred on Easter Sunday morning). In my experience of putting on men's gatherings of a national scope over the last four years, I have never seen such a pure manifestation of evil arise in this type of event. My Spirit is deeply troubled by the dark malice that is revealed in this man's heart.
However, of equal concern to me was the reaction of a minority of men to this wantonly disruptive behavior. Although I know that we each come to there events with varying degrees of mental and spiritual health, I find it incomprehensible that this man's behavior was validated or defended in any way. Whether or not a person may (or may not) have a life threatening illness is beside the point. We are all dying, some of us more quickly than others. That a man may have contracted a terminal illness in no way gives him license to behave badly.
In spite of all this, Jim Bracewell, Rick Mercer, Art Sellers, Peter Carlson, and the other Elders and workshop leaders made every attempt to find an amicable resolution to the trouble. This is to their credit. I have first hand knowledge of the endless dedication that is required to shepherd an event of this type into fruition. It is truly a Heart Yoga, done solely out of love for the Male Community. To have the many hours of loving sacrifice so blatantly undermined is nothing short of cruel. These men did not deserve the treatment they received.
As I sat in the Circle on Sunday morning, listening to the few misguided attempts to justify the unjustifiable, and watching this man clearly reveling in the chaos and rancor he had succeeded in foisting upon our gathering, I was overwhelmed with disgust. I had to physically leave the Circle. I did not return. Nor will I return in the future unless we become willing to require accountability as a minimum standard. We cannot sacrifice the health of the larger community to the sickness of an individual. As my friend Flying Elk put it so succinctly: "What's it going to take? Is he going to come back next year and burn down a building? Or physically hurt someone?" Will we only then be no longer willing to tolerate this type of behavior?
Gentlemen, we who have achieved a modicum of healing have incurred a moral and spiritual obligation to ensure that this type of travesty is not permitted to occur again at our gatherings. Robert Moore stated it so clearly: "The only thing a Warrior does is to fight evil." We must be willing to take a clear stand, which includes physically removing this type of disrupter from the premises if that is what it takes. We must be willing to do what is necessary protect our Community. We cannot ever again allow our Sacred Work to be held hostage by this type of psychic terrorist. We owe it to the memory of our ancestors. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our sons.