I recently saw the film made by the Deep Diving Men Lab, it struck quite a few cords. It's a short film about a group of men dancing together, and their ideas around masculinity. Central to their work and to a lot of the modern day masculinity groups is the notion that most men are still boys. They don't feel as though they've grown up yet, even when into their forties and fifties. A quote from the film sums it up, 'I'm not sure that I've become a man yet. It's an on-going process I feel more of a man today than I did yesterday. Like I put up a fence recently, on that day, I felt like a man.' It's kind of funny, but is also kind of tragic. Doing DIY makes you a man. I also notice the underlying message, a man puts up fences, he keeps others out.
Perpetual boys lack the natural poise and assurance which comes with maturity. When any of us, boys or girls, remain immature we give away our power, become needy, seek to please others and want to do as they wish. The shadow aspect of this is inevitably failing, and feeling like failures.
From this desperate immaturity comes a lack of self belief and particularly awareness. I was told a story about an exercise undertaken by a group of counsellors. The men and women separated, and were asked 'what is the other group saying about you?' The men grimly believed the women were criticizing them, saying how inadequate they were. In reality, the opposite was happening. The women were praising the men for being on a counselling course, and having the guts to be vulnerable and authentic.
By remaining boys, we are able to pursue very selfish lives, full of ambition, competition and ego. This is promoted as an ideal, a role model or template for boys to follow. This fixed and inflexible view of masculine is nurtured by our culture, by the way we teach, by the media, by our drunken peers, by so many different means. However, it is not our nature.
To quote another man from the film, 'I was shocked when I was a kid when this one woman was telling me these sort of stereotypes about how men behave, and I thought, that's not me. Who the hell is she talking about? That is crazy and I felt so removed from that expectation, that kind of stereotype.'
Our menfolk are confused, they have within their nature the ability to be caring, sharing, compassionate and vulnerable. They are taught from an early age that to 'be a man' they should suppress such emotions and feelings. Often when they reach their forties and fifties they reassess their lives, and realise they never conquered or eradicated those feelings, they are still present. At this point they have the opportunity to become mature men. They do this by embracing their 'feminine side', by opening themselves to authentic vulnerability. They don't realise that this is what a mature man does. He doesn't continue along the competitive and destructive path, he changes, he becomes someone with more depth.
For me, that is the missing link between boys and men. We need to encourage men to take such a compassionate path, and for them to realise the real benefits which come from such a choice. Boys behaving beautifully, become men, and by realising this, I will be more of a man when I take down my fences, rather than put them up.