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Of Mice and Men

Reflections and Confessions on "The Masculine"

by Suzanne Nadon

This article appeared in the March 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

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When men have stood up and spoken with so-called authority about "the women's movement," I have scorned and chastised them. Yet here I am today, permitting myself a similar indulgence in making a few very personal reflections, as a woman, on the "masculine" principle in the '90s!

Over the past 20+ years of my adult life, the women's movement has sensitized me to the need and opportunity to be self-defined. My self-development goal was always to learn to no longer feel vicarious success and failure through my husband, father, brother, son or lover, but to live my life as a whole human woman, defined by my own agenda. I successfully developed a career in my twenties, became a mystical recluse in my thirties, and have chosen to put motherhood first in my forties. Today, I live with my children, without a partner, in a house I designed and built myself-a literal truth with intended metaphorical application.

This is my confession: for a good part of the last 20 years, I believed that men would be better off if they practiced what we had learned as women, following our creed and becoming servants of the Goddess, students of the feminine principle. I would have bred what we now call "soft New Age men," had the men around me not known their own souls. Given the power to, I would have eradicated the patriarchy and made mice of all men! As in Steinbeck's novel, I might even have "loved" the mice to death. Or perhaps I might have had the little rodents for breakfast as "mice krispies."*

On reflection, I now realize that I supported men in their contempt for anything truly masculine. I came by this understanding too late, a failed marriage being the price I paid for such separatist fantasies. I valued sensitivity over steadfastness, living off the land in poverty over the responsible-career ethic, the inner at the expense of the outer, the circle instead of the arrow, and vulnerability over strong intentionality.

Then I looked around and mourned the ravaged masculine in myself, and in the men around me, until fate presented me with a lover who had not yet been daunted by women's efforts to oversensitize. I struggled mightily for two years with a projection onto someone who held so few of my so-called "true" life values. But in the end, I had to admit that I was desperately drawn to his pure male essence. In humility, I withdrew from all opinions about the masculine journey and just watched.

Meanwhile, groups of men the globe over had been meeting in small clusters to define for themselves what the inner masculine journey was about. Sam Keen, Robert Bly, and countless other less famous men struggled to articulate their manhood, separate from the old belief system, "Mother as womb" (I'll die without a woman in my life), and separate from a newer paradigm, "men are wombless beings" (women have all the power and creativity, I'm almost nothing).

This is one man's story. As a child in the '50s, this boy was a child of Pan, playing contentedly in Creation yet seldom sharing his mystical communion with others, since any such display of the "woo-woos" would be considered effeminate. As a boy, he learned to subdue his impulses, hold his tears, and follow the status quo. This boy's father was a sincere and dedicated military man in the higher echelons of his organization. Father was faithfully loyal to his superiors, to his marriage, to his bank and to his gas station, never choosing to shop elsewhere. Once he was committed to a certain path, he rolled on as mightily as the Great Canadian Railway on a single, predefined track. Father retired wealthy, with his wife, children and grandchildren at his side.

As a teen, Rob was funny, creative and repressed. He was the "good boy," while his sister was permitted no end to her expressive emotionality and creativity. She was religious, but he became agnostic and disillusioned. He was in the Boy Scouts, while she painted her bedroom walls. In his early twenties, he graduated from a Master's study program and got married to his high school sweetheart within a few months. The pressure from the responsibilities of career and marriage nearly took this man to a breaking point.

In his late twenties, he followed the corporate norm, climbing steadily and eagerly until it was clear that he was as creative and talented as any of the senior partners in his organization. He made a lateral move, invented and patented a new technology, built a million-dollar company around his invention-and then left.

He retired at the ripe age of 31, with a small pension, buoyed by his wife's feminist ideal to be the principal supporter of the family. After she bore two children, she returned to work and he stayed home to raise his children. They had moved to the country, where he built his own house, tended the chickens, home-schooled, experimented with new farming techniques, kept a journal, and cried openly in his solitude when his father asked what had become of all his son's "potential."

Early in his journey, this man had a dream:

"I am the midwife. My father is having a baby, and this baby is a girl. My seven-year-old son is the father of the baby. There is a blinding light and I know that though others might fear this as the end of the world, my sister and I are OK because we are aligned with God."

Rob's ego was drawing out the new feminine from an old patriarchal paradigm, and his future self as a man (his son) was the new seed that would make this transformation possible. For seven long years, this man struggled with sleeplessness, aimlessness, and worthlessness, always conscious that he was battling the current "patriarchal" agenda he'd been born into, not just in his own family but in his culture.

His struggle at first was a solitary one, then he grouped with other men on the journey in a loosely defined men's group. His fulfillment and satisfaction came from the true heartfelt connection he could make with some of these men. He grieved the lost relationships with other men of significance in his life, and made many efforts to mend the web, some of them successful. He courageously learned to wait, to surrender to the flow, to steal the key from under Woman's pillow. For nearly a decade he walked his own path, in moccasins of his own making.

More recently Rob had another dream: "I am making love with a man. Brad was a childhood friend, someone who chose the patriarchal agenda and became a stockbroker. Today he is rich and stands for everything that I left behind in my life choices."

Because Rob was now experienced in dealing with shadow, he saw Brad as a new shadow image-Rob's repressed career ambitions-and recognized that his encounter with Brad was no longer one of needing to conquer and slay him, but of befriending and loving-joining in a spiritual-sexual union with this man. Rob took from this dream the message that the time had come to stand up and walk toward his goals with renewed vigor. It's OK to make money. It's OK to set a goal and work to make it happen. He reinstated positive masculine energy and built up another business from scratch, which made him a comfortable living. In their midlife, Rob and his wife switched roles again. She began to do the house and kid work, while he became the principal wage earner in his family. This brought great peace to his soul. Rob is a beautiful, inspiring, creative man. He is certainly one of the many unsung heroes in the men's movement.

But the story does not end here. Michael, born in the early '80s, is Rob's nephew and lives next door, in constant and true companionship with his uncle. Like Rob, Michael grew up a child of Pan, playing to his heart's content in the full glory of nature. He learned his limits and grew to respect nature as the life-giver and the destroyer she is. Instead of following his mom to Sunday school at the local church, Michael silently communed with the trees, the stones, the butterflies and the newts by the pond. Born into a context of respect for the inner life, Michael respected his dreams and all aspects of an introspective lifestyle as he grew up.

When he was barely seven, he had a dream. "I am faced with a big dragon. I am ready to slay it with my sword, when I look at it's feet and recognize that this dragon is my mother. I know she has a baby somewhere and decide not to kill her, so that the baby dragon can live too." Where was the St. George archetype for this child? Composted. In the same way that the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, grace too descends upon our children. The valiant journey of the specific elders responsible for Michael, and the collective elders in the world at the time of his birth, yielded in him a new level of consciousness at a remarkably tender age.

In this young man's dream is my hope for humanity. Michael is growing up knowing he need not subdue nature, exploit her riches or conquer her to prove his potency. He knows she bears life which needs to be respected (the baby dragon), and he is aware of her awe-full power and is an honorable opponent to it (poised with a sword). He is confident in his manhood (knows he could kill her and chooses not to) and comfortable in his feminine nature (sees the mother-baby life connection).

He is truly a remarkable young man. Last year he trekked north with his father, his uncle Rob, and two other men from Rob's group. Under the leadership of a native elder in northern Ontario, Michael and his four companions endured four days and nights of vision quest, fasting, and solitude. His only food was a cube of raw moose meat presented to him at 4 a.m. before the daily sweat-lodge ceremony. In his time alone within the circle of stones that were the limits of his territory when he was not in the sweat lodge, he drew in his journal, slept, dreamed and recorded his images. He was an honorable opponent to hunger, darkness, boredom and fear. One night, a brown bear came within 20 feet of his circle, paid his respects, and walked calmly away.

Of 20 or so native and non-native youths who began the vision quest, he was one of two or three who completed the journey. His week-long ritual of passage into manhood was punctuated by amazing success in his outer life too. In his 13th year, he won two Canadian National Championship titles in kung fu, won the boys' academic achievement award at school, and was promoted to the adult division of his martial arts club despite his young age. He then proceeded to win the Adult Student of the Year award for diligence at his task, the Competitor of the Year award and, on the eve of his 13th birthday, he was granted a civic award by the mayor of his town.

For all their accomplishments in the outer and the inner worlds, Michael and Rob are men of the earth and sky: truly humble and wise, compassionate and creative, kind and clever, diligent and respectful of life. They are, I believe, inspiring models of the mature masculine in the '90s. I am honored to be in life with them.

For the world, in the personal, interpersonal and transpersonal realms, I am anticipating the hieros gamos. Spiritual union of whole men with whole women is now becoming a possibility. I know I will soon see a patriarchy inspired by a wise feminism, and a feminism promoted by a soulful patriarchy. I now feel confident that we will not suffer emasculation or effemination as we grow toward wholeness in our androgynous natures. Having dealt with the Minotaur in the Other Gender, we are, I believe, at the gates of the Holy City.

Dare I enter?

* Thanks to Douglas Cann, Jungian analyst from London, Ontario, for this dream-sourced image as reported in his lecture "Dreams of Men," in Toronto, January 1995.

Suzanne Nadon is a writer, a counselor and human relations trainer. She has authored four books in the field of spiritual psychology, her latest being New Moon Journey: Embracing Darkness, Depression, Shamanism and Dreams. It is published by Maplestone Press, RR #1 Owen Sound, ON CA N4K 5N3.

Email: (Suzanne Nadon)

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