Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Discovering the Core

"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences."
— Chris McCandless
The best selling novel Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer describes the events leading up to the tragic death of Chris McCandless, a recent college graduate who gives up everything to head off the grid on an adventure of a lifetime.  This true story pieced together through the journals, letters, and interviews of people Chris met on his journey, follows Chris on an adventure across the country in which Chris is seemingly trying to discover himself. 

Chris made himself a blank slate by erasing his previous existence. He burned all his cash and donated a substantial amount of money, destroyed his credit cards and social security card Chris destroyed any other identification of his former self and life.  Finally, the last step in creating a new identity, Chris changed his name to Alexander Supertramp.  His ultimate goal was to head West and then North in order to experience the last frontier, Alaska.  Sounds like the dream of every little boy.  Taking off on an adventure with nobody to answer to but yourself.  No responsibilities, you could take yourself anywhere you want!  Chris wanted Alaska, the place where a true adventure could be had and he made it to his destination.  Once in Alaska Chris headed off into the wild and eventually found himself in an old abandoned bus.  This bus is where Chris spent the last few months of his life scraping to survive and finally starving to death.

Chris’ story is a tragic one but no more tragic than the stories of all the boys who die literally or figuratively in an attempt to discover themselves, in an attempt to become men.  I have heard people criticize Chris saying he was stupid to go out into the wilderness unprepared and that he "killed himself."  I think Chris would be saddened if that was the only lesson his death left behind, "how not to be stupid."  Chris’ story gives us deep insight into the mind of men and boys.  Men have a desire to be something wild and to do something exciting and great. But our modern world deprives them of that adventure that was once a normal part of being a man.  Deep down men do not wish to be cooped up behind a desk for the rest of their lives.  They crave adventure and want to live!
All boys have the craving to be something wild and to find adventure but very few ever satisfy that craving.  Becoming wild by touching his core masculine used to be part of a boy’s normal male development.  It was part of growing up. Going on some great adventure, to be initiated into manhood was part of his passage into manhood.  This initiation is something that has been lost in our modern society but it is still something that boys crave and they seek it out in any way they can, usually in unhealthy ways.  Chris’ journey was one of self-discovery, trying to figure out who he was.  He cut off ties to his family in order to break free and become his own man.  Life was calling him and society was holding him back from discovering his inner core.  I believe the lesson Chris would have us gain from his quest is that he died living; he died finally knowing who he was and what he was capable of.  He died a man, and I believe he died lonely and in pain but satisfied with his last adventure.   

Was death really necessary for Chris to discover himself? Was there no way to gain this insight without sacrificing life?  The answer is ,that there is a way of discovering one’s masculine self without death.  Unfortunately this initiation is often not given in our culture.  This initiation should take place from the time a boy is very young.  From a young age a boy should learn to be a man through interactions and initiation from his father or other strong man in his life.  However, All too often boys do not have that in their lives and choose other ways to be initiated into manhood.  Chris chose an adventure of a lifetime that ultimately killed him.  Some boys join gangs to prove their worth as a strong man, Some become great business men ruling an empire, others join fraternities, and some choose risky sports or illegal behavior.  Regardless of how they do it, most boys, if not guided, will find their own way of being a man.  Unfortunately those ways are usually just  a coverup for unmet needs deep at the core.  They will never truly satisfy because they are a hoax.  They are not a true initiation.  Those who don't have an healthy initiation and don't seek one out, end up as the passive man, spoken of in previous posts.  Being unsure of his capabilities and insecure in himself as a man.   So how do we initiate boys in a healthy way?
The biggest thing a boy needs to know is that he measures up to other men that he has what it takes and that he is valued in the eyes of other men and in his own eyes.  Boys need to know they are tough and that they are strong.  Without that knowledge they slip into passivity and become insecure and scared of life.

Too often men hide from their masculine core as they are emasculated by people in their lives.  This emasculation happens by other boys calling him a  “faggot” or “pussy” or teasing him about being a “sissy” in gym class, his fathers saying “boys don’t cry” or yelling at a young boy trying to help with the car when he is actually getting in the way of his father, or a mother not allowing her son to play physical sports because he might get hurt.  These types of things tell a boy that he does not measure up, that he is weak and somehow more feminine than other boys.  A strong supportive man in a boy’s life can often repair this damage but at some point boys need to be shown in a very real way that they are accepted and welcomed into the world of men.  As John Eldredge states in his book Wild At Heart, “Masculinity is bestowed.”   It is not just attained.  A boy cannot get this from other boys or from women.  He needs to be bestowed with masculinity by other men. 

Stop for a moment and ask yourself if you were ever initiated and if you truly feel that you are at your core a confident man?  When did that happen for you?  If you cannot answer this question with a yes then it is time for you to become part of the worldwide brotherhood of men.  Get out there and discover yourself, give yourself a rite of passage!  You deserve to be a man!