Forging a New Masculinity
The point of this writing is not to tell my sob-story, or preach to other men, nor am I interested in political correctness, or feminization, or emasculation. Far from it. My intention is to empower people- men especially but women too. I think we all wish to be better partners, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and most of all, friends. I should also like to point out that this essay itself is a work in progress--and that I intend to expand on many of the ideas herein. I should start then historically--and divulge to the reader that nothing I have written is particularly new--but rather, these ideas are resilient. I am not the first, nor hopefully shall I be the last to inquire about the unhealthy wound that seems to reside in men--in masculinity itself, that drives us so viciously to war with one another. Certainly women have their place in the woes of the world, either by enabling, supporting or subordinating themselves to the cantankerous rule of men. Now of course, immediately some of my brothers will be offended--and I say, "good", you should be as such, and I will go further and tell you why.
If you, as a man have safeguarded your masculinity in such a way as to blot out the possibility of your own evolution--if your ethos is so insipid as to ignore that the greatest tragedy on this planet is the subjugation and repression of girls and women--then, Sir, I say are not part of the solution--you remain stubbornly part of the problem.
Of this evolution I speak, I say it can be no less the reformation of men first-our attitudes, our stupidity, our weakness, that will bring about change. Yes in the ascendency of women we will feel great discomfort, and we will evolve with that ascent--because this is what is intended. We cannot, by any means, continue to course through history on testosterone.
My family is comprised of readers, especially the women. My grandmother, aunts and my mother all read voraciously. Because of these women, I have the tremendous fortune of a life-long acquaintance with literature and myth. I was enrolled in a weekly book club by the time I was four and was reading at high school level when I was only six. I was gifted this way, and perhaps that is the extent of any divine providence in me. As articulation has become an art to me, so to it has become a curse--as Bacon is wont to write--words leaves wounds far deeper than the sword can ever. I've not been without self-inflicted wounds from having spoke out of turn. Again, Bacon cautions us "Would you forsake reputation for truth"? The answer is yes, should the reader be interested in my own approach.
As child, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. By twelve, I'd read all of Darwin, Freud, even some Jung (which has clearly shaped my outlook). I was, like many children then, taken in by JRR Tolkien’s work, and traced the lineage of his prose to Icelandic and Nordic myth. Later, I studied Greek and Roman literature and philosophy at boarding school and at University, and as an adult I became again interested with every last bit of esoteric and arcane teaching from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Tibetan Mahamudra to the early gnostic mystery schools of Europe. Myth seems to always find it's way into my work for this reason; I reference these learnings with great frequency.
I invoke particular archetypes throughout my work—but for the specific topic of this essay—I invoke the figure of the Greek God, Hephaistos, pictured above. Hephaistos protects inventors, sculptors, metalsmiths and workers. He is undoubtedly a very masculine archetype, yet like his fellow brother of the abyss-Hades, he is depicted as introverted, and wounded, or lame. He is the Goddess Hera's parthenogenous child, rejected by his mother because of his deformity and thrown off of Mount Olympus and down to earth. The symbolism is easy. Hephaistos is made lame and immobile by the wound with his Mother. There is no more fitting analogy for controlling men, crippled by their lack of depth, and in unconscious pain than Hephaistos. He really is, all joking aside--the patron saint of sensitive or wounded men.
At his worst, he is the epitome of a bitter, resentful and thwarted man-child, demonstrated by how he takes revenge against his mother Hera for rejecting him. Hephaistos fashions his mother a wondrous golden throne, which, when she sits on it, does not allow her to stand up. The metaphor should be obvious. He seeks to control his mother, and by extension, women. When the other gods beg Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go, but he refuses, saying "I have no mother". His wound, that of “the motherless child", is to be acted out again and again in his jealous chronologies and in the lives of men in whom their relationship to their mothers is flawed. Men who spend extravagantly on their women, only to eventually try and control them and incapacitate them. Men with "trophy" wives whom care nothing for a deep, spiritual connection, or worse, men who choose to be controlled by their partners for fear of speaking up and asking for what they need. I do not wish to demean men who are effeminate, or gentle-natured. I am referring to men who wish to overcome, what is infantile and chauvinistic and treat our partners with all the deep love and respect that two people can share. This can only happen when we go to the forge--and temper ourselves like steel, and find out who we are.
Hephaistos is not oddly also a fitting archetype for many technologists. He is in fact, the first robotist. Hephaistos built automatons of metal to work for him. This included tripods that walked to and from Mount Olympus. He is at his best, the god who creates all manner of wonders, who forges the new, and blasts the old. For men, we could do worse than look to Hephaistos for guidance. He works diligently and proudly behind the scenes, forging the new and discarding the old.
Many men carry Hephaistos' wound. I am wounded and I became fully aware of my strength as a man by admitting it. I struggled with my wound, my own ego, and with self-control. I struggled with accepting the many powerful women in my life. I don’t anymore because I have a relationship to the wounded Hephaistos in me, and I fashion myself anew from the innermost material of the wound itself. My intention (with the not so subtle help of more than one partner) is to clean the ash from the ancient baffles, so that I could first, rid myself of resentment and take control of me (not her) and we could together fire up and forge a new relationship to one another and to women in general. I still make mistakes, more often than I'd like to admit--but I know from whence they come--the deep, subterenean place where the wound lives, still burning. The forge.
I hope the reader will grasp my use of archetype and myths here to empower them. I am not trying to do the former—to take men down and notch—and I will tell you unequivocally—I want to lift us up, I want us to be better men. Most of all, I want to talk to about how to do that, how to become that and how honor what is sacred within us.