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Drum Circle

an essay

Copyright © 2001 by T. Namaya

 


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Brothers, I have loved you all... H. Carruth

In the dim light of time, a group of men were sitting around a fire, and someone struck the side of a hollow log and was pleased at the sound. It sounded dull, but firm. Another stroke and the sound changed ever so slightly. This time it thundered. Drum! Even the word sounds ancient, one syllable, close to the phoneme, the root, the sound—drum.

I return to a beginning, to this ancient circle of men, as we are now gathered around a campfire. Not this skewered notion of men belching and farting, drinking beer, and telling lewd stories. No! This is a fellowship of brothers, a gathering of men: artists, teachers, tradesmen, and professionals. But age, profession, or sexual orientation doesn.t matter; the only important thing is the bond. The bond of brothers is sought and found in this circle of drums.

When I was decades younger I found the company of men too insecure and filled with bravado and the false understandings of what it was to be a man. I preferred the company of women, with a sincerity of emotions, strength of kindness and candor I had not yet found in men. But it wasn.t the men who were lacking nor were the women so well possessed of this virtue; it was a mirror of my own longing and emptiness. I longed for the company of men: Fellowship. We languish in our soul-deep hunger for community in the narrow cell of our self imposed isolation, but the walls that separate men from one another are stout and built stone by stone. What do I call these flint-hard stones? Pride? Manliness? Stoicism? The longing for brother and father that is never spoken? The false invulnerability? Never flinch, be struck and hurt, but never cry? Year after year, the isolation and pain that comes from this toughness, becomes like a stout field stone wall. Each stone is so neatly and tightly set one next to the other: How could I possibly unravel the enigma and blind logic of this pain? But from this field stone wall, I.ve built this dark cell with few comforts; save for the narrow window that looks towards the bright clear skies. If I could gather my tenderness and strength and roll them together -- Could I shatter these walls? If you and I stood naked, that is, without our defenses, without our false pride, without pretense, man to man, person to person&could I stand the fear and the beauty of my vulnerability? As men we are taught the false lesson of pride and to value physical strength over emotional courage and wisdom. We are told that our needs for fellowship, the love of men for brothers, and the tenderness rarely known from our fathers -- all of this is best left unspoken. I seek the love of men, not eros the erotic love, but agape -- the love of fellow man -- this is the true instinct and what I hunger for.

But I still hear the ghost voices of the dead patriarchs, with their ossified spirits speaking in the background: Modulate and deepen the voice! Suffer quietly! Stuff the emotions down and allow the heart to tighten and constrict! Should we allow the blood pressure to rise as we tie our emotions in knots? Will we allow our viscera to narrow and the acid of our unspoken tears to drip and erode our guts. Will we permit our prostates to swell with our unarticulated sexuality and our unspoken longing to love wholly and profoundly?

I say, ".No!.. No" to this cold fire of cancer that is born from of our unloving selves. No, to the alcohol that swallows the pain. No to the pain of our unloved selves. But, I say yes to this circle of men and drums. To this gathering today I bring not only my pain, but also the possibility of real joy. I bring my voice that quivers somewhat too high and off-key. I bring my soul deep hunger for fellowship, and the hope of truly being a man who is not defined by the past, but by joy, tenderness, and the ability to love profoundly.

We begin this drum circle in silence. Each person is quiet, finding the center of self, and the center of this circle. The drums are stroked slowly tenderly and the pulse is found. The pulse is connected to the heart, stronger, steady -- thundering with one voice - Brothers!

Spring - VT Namaya

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