reconsidering some of the roads not taken...

Let me follow-up on yesterday's post. In a late morning conversation today with a wise elder from outside my faith community (and tradition) I was given these words of insight: "at this moment in your life, take a look backwards to some of the crossroads and see what the roads not taken might be saying to you today." Serendipitously, that is part of what has been unfolding in my soul over the past 18 months - but not consciously or intentionally. Not surprisingly, I found myself flipping through a small volume by William O. Roberts, Jr. entitled, Crossing the Soul's River: A Rite of Passage for Men. Two thoughts began to bubble to the surface:

+ First, I have long been interested in the soul work of men. Maybe this has its roots in
being conscienticized by the emerging feminist movement in the 70s (thanks be to God for Martha B!) It is certainly connected to the intellectual and artistic work of key women in Western culture  - everyone from Robin Morgan and Germaine Greer to Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell - during those formative years, too. And I owe a debt of gratitude to the wisdom that emerged from the mythopoetic men's movement - Michael Meade, James Hillman, Robert Bly and Sam Keen - who offered me a light in the darkness.  I remember like it was yesterday discovering Bly's translation of Rilke's poem, "Sometimes a Man Stands Up During Supper," in a bookstore in Cleveland and breaking down in tears.

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

For at least 25 years I've been saying: Maybe there will come a time to do some soul work with men - and rites of passage work with young men - as an expression of gratitude and culture care.  Maybe now is that time, indeed, as it jives with both my musical passions and spirituality.

+ Second, this is a unique moment in my later stage of ministry - one saturated with the call to intimacy - that is calling for expression.  In Wilson's text, he summarizes Erickson's "stages of development" for women and men and notes a few key differences. "As males and females, we pass through the childhood stages pretty much together. If we are cared for, then we will develop trust as infants. We both start saying no and become autonomous as terrible two-year olds. We develop autonomy and industry as children." Then, however, some developmental changes take different paths for men and women:  in adolescence, Erickson suggests, men tend to seek an identity and move toward generativity while women "yearn for intimacy (first) and then move to generativity. This means that in midlife, we come back to the other's adolescent tasks: men yearn for intimacy and women seek identity."  His chart is instructive:

Most men                               Most women
Trust                                          Trust
Autonomy                                  Autonomy
Initiative                                     Initiative
Industry                                      Industry
IDENTITY                                  INTIMACY
INTIMACY                                 IDENTITY
Ego integrity                             Ego integrity

This means, at the very least, that men in midlife are working on developmental drives that are the polar opposite of women. "Men are neither graceful nor often successful in this quest... further this task is something we are not yet good at. We did not learn how to be sensitive and gentle and vulnerable in high school. We learned instead how to bang our heads and bodies into the opposing teams... we learned how to score, not how to know another person deeply or be known." And so another clue starts to take shape and form, yes? 

Last night I kept wanting to play an old, old Beatles’ song, “I’ll Be Back.” It is one of their unplugged tunes from 1964 that Lennon wrote for “A Hard Day’s Night” that was never used in the film. I love the opening chord shift from Bsus to A that quickly becomes Am. So I spent about an hour practicing and loving it. Then, after my conversation this morning, it hit me:  I’ll be back, indeed.  Apparently I will be back to some of those crossroads that I haven't considered deeply for decades. Here's a version of last night's song that has been carefully updated by young women - and  that makes my soul sing, as well.


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