Time for Women to Roar!

Calling for a female rebellion

As American cities and the planet burn under fires of hate and plunder, I see no other way out but to call for a female revolt. We men have been at the wheel for eons and have brought the world to the brink. It’s time for women to take over, at least for now.

The idea of a female rebellion is not new. Greek playwright Aristophanes proposed such a radical solution in 411 BCE in “Lysistrata,” an account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a peace. They play ends with the signing of a peace treaty amid plenty of painful erections.

In the late 19th century, American women revolted against male irresponsibility by mobilizing nearly 200 thousand into the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s campaign to close the saloons and outlaw booze. The American family was under threat, and women had had enough.

A true woman is serene until her den is threatened, and then she fights like a lioness to defend it. Now is the time for real women to roar. — Washington Irving

Until very recently, I still harbored the illusion that the sexes could reconcile and return to the harmony and cooperation which reigned for thousands of years during our egalitarian life as hunter-gatherers. Now, I’m not so sure. The growing rise to power of male autocrats, cheered by legions of groveling ‘men’ who have lost their individual power is threatening the den of the world on a social and planetary scale.

These slavish legions of weak men, said Hannah Arendt in her Theory of Totalitarianism, are the product of a specific conjuncture. They constitute the detritus of all social strata which have lost their former social identity and emotional bearings as a result of abrupt political, geopolitical, and economic dislocation. They compose individuals who live on the periphery of all social and political involvements. Bereft of power, organizational affiliation, inexperienced in conventional politics, and lacking conviction, these men offer virgin territory for the totalitarian movements to harvest.

At the end of the First World War, British poet WB Yeats saw the writing on the wall and wrote this in ‘The Second Coming’:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Twenty years after Yeats prophecy, men were back in the sandbox with their guns and bombs and plunged the world into another bloody episode of anarchy and carnage where 85 million people lost their lives.

Humanity may have left behind the days of world conflagrations but look closely and you’ll see spreading fires of unrest, discontent, strife and looming chaos, against the backdrop of planetary collapse. The Third Coming? I say it’s time for women to roar and save the den.

As for the men, American statesman Frederick Douglass’ once said that there are days when it seems most adult men are beyond repair, and from the look of it, I’m afraid he’s right, but I refuse to give up on the young. So, while women heed my call to revolt and take over the wheel, I will assume my rightful place as a male elder of the human tribe and help initiate the coming generation of men.

Besides an urgent preoccupation with the state of the world, my effort is a way to ‘pay-it forward’ on behalf of my father. Had not it been for his fortune, he would’ve been a Nazi, indoctrinated in a hateful ideology conceived by a man who felt small and powerless and who stoked the fire of racism and hate festering inside the vast majority of German men who shared his sense of despair after their country’s humiliating defeat in World War I.

The most dangerous man is not one with power but one who feels powerless. — Dr. Michael Gurian, author of ‘Saving our Sons’

The loss of power, social identity, and emotional bearings as a result of political, geopolitical, and economic dislocation which Hannah Arendt said were the underpinnings of male discontent, will only get worse. If we now have what many call a “boy crisis” on our hands, we’ll soon face a full-blown catastrophe if we don’t properly guide the young.

Besides helping boys become critical thinkers, teaching them how to harness the power of rage, and confront their innate biases so that natural prejudice doesn’t turn to racial violence, I begin my book with the universal story which gave origin to us all… before race, borders, nations, and diving ideological lines. “We’re all made of stardust,” said astronomer Carl Sagan.

It was not until the Agricultural Revolution, 14,000 years ago, that the distancing between the male and female worldview began to widen; between egalitarianism and male domination. A distancing which grew wider when men began to tell themselves stories to justify their ascendancy. By the time of the Mycenaean Bronze Age civilization, around 1600–1100 BCE, the rule of men was firmly established.

To make sense of this significant shift and it’s ruinous consequences, I take boys on a journey back in time…

Minoan women
‘Ladies in Blue’ – Minoan Civilization fresco

Once we settled and built permanent houses, we had room to start accumulating and storing goods, mostly our grain crops and animals and began to worry about stuff. Forgetting how long we had lived and thrived from the land, we worried about whether we had enough food for the future. Before, if we didn’t find food in one place, we just moved. But now, we were stuck in place and depended more on the weather for our survival.

More food meant even more people, so populations began to explode. BOOM!

Larger cities were built to make room for growing populations. By the late 13th and early 14th centuries we started drawing lines on maps and calling them “borders,” which pretty much are imaginary divisions between skin colors, languages, or ways of looking at the world. They are like the outlines in children’s coloring books, yet children, as we all know, are masters at coloring outside the lines. We adults have much to learn from you kids.

Some people now had more than others, so fights broke out. We then started raiding other cities for their food and land. Battles broke out. Then all-out wars. BOOM! KABOOM!

Our growing brains were getting us in trouble. Our late cousins, the chimpanzees, must have been scratching their heads wondering what the heck was wrong with us.

People were not only fighting for food and territory; they also fought over ideas.

To explain this, I’ll tell you the story of two groups of people with very different ideas. It’s a true story, with some embellishments to make it easier to understand.

One group lived on an island called Crete, in ancient Greece, about 3000 years ago. They were the Minoans. I call them ‘Minnows,’ like little fish. The others lived in the mainland, two hundred miles from the Minnows. These were the Mycenaeans. I call them ‘Myce,’ like those furry beasties who scurry across kitchens making old ladies scream and jump on stools holding brooms.

The Myce had come from higher up the Eurasian continent. They were nomadic, which means they were always on the move. They herded cattle, which was their primary food source. They had also learned to tame wild horses. When their previous territory became cooler and drier because of climate change, they spread south and settled in Mycenae, two hundred miles from the Minnows.

Hunter-gatherers had first showed up in this area about twenty thousand years before. Over the next twelve thousand years, the sea level gradually rose, and large game animals were no longer available, so hunter-gatherer populations came to depend increasingly on plants for their survival and the problem became to develop a reliable supply. Girls were really good at this. After all, women in hunter-gatherer societies had developed the greatest knowledge of plants because they were the principal gatherers of this food. It has been estimated that men and women contributed about the same amount of food, in terms of calories, to early hunter-gatherer groups. This is starting to happen again, with both Moms and Dads working to provide for their families.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Minoan society was especially prosperous, peaceful, and happy. It was also a society in which women were as important as men. After all, they saved our butts when large animals became scarce. In the palaces of Knossos, the most important Minnow city in Crete, archaeologists found paintings on walls that show women holding high positions in Minnow society.

Meanwhile, over at Mycenae, the city of the Myce…

There, archaeologists uncovered a very different story, one of a warrior culture ruled by powerful commanders who made themselves rich by conducting raiding expeditions near and far, as well as by exploiting local farmers.

The main differences between the Myce and the Minnows were:

  1. They spoke different languages.
  2. Minnows were far more artistic.
  3. The Myce made burnt offerings to their gods; the Minnows did not. Burnt offerings consist of taking a poor animal that’s happily munching on grass, and then killing and burning it over an open fire to ask an imaginary being up in the sky for help. Sometimes they weren’t even nice enough to kill the animal before throwing it into the flames.
  4. Palaces in Myceland were heavily fortified. Those in Minnowland were not.
  5. Weapons were common in Myce, not on Mino.
  6. Minnow society granted women higher status. Myce, by contrast, were patriarchal — men held all the power and women were excluded from it.
  7. Goddesses played a greater role in Minnowland as evidenced by the large number of female figurines and paintings found around the ancient city of Knossos. In contrast, the most important and powerful God of the Myce was ‘Sky Father,’ later called ‘Zeus’ in Greek mythology; the bearded guy who throws thunderbolts at people he doesn’t like and is constantly unfaithful to his wife.
  8. Before the Myce were able to overtake the Minnows, a massive volcano eruption and tsunami — one that may have inspired the myth of the lost city of Atlantis — crushed the Minoan Civilization.

The Myce and their stories took over.

And they were not good stories.

Listen to some of them:

Humans! Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. [Genesis 1]

Since women give birth to babies like the Earth gives birth to plants out of seeds, it means women are the same as the Earth. But since sometimes the Earth goes dry and doesn’t produce plants, the Earth is evil. If Earth is the same as Woman, then women are evil too. The Earth sometimes also acts all crazy with storms, floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, ice ages, and hurricanes. Since the Earth is like a girl, then girls are scary crazy too. [From the Babylonian Creation Myth and the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone]

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as men are. [Exodus 21:7–11]

Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. [Isaiah 13:1]

Go and strike and destroy all that your enemies have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey! [Samuel 15:3]

Slaves! Submit yourselves to your masters with respect, not only to the good and gentle masters but also to the cruel ones.[Peter 2:18]

A prophet should not have prisoners of war until he has made a great slaughter in the land. [The Qur’an Verse 8:67]

Do not permit a woman to teach or boss over a man; she must be quiet. [Timothy 2:12]

If the wife of a man who is living in her husband’s house, has persisted in going out, has acted the fool, has waster her house, has belittled her husband, he shall prosecute her. If her husband has said, “I divorce her,” she shall go her way; he shall give her nothing as her price of divorce. If her husband has said “I will not divorce her” he may take another woman to wife; the wife shall live as a slave in her husband’s house. [Code of Hammurabi c. 1700 BCE]

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. [Exodus 21:24]

Boy, oh boy…

Subdue and dominate our Earth and rule over everything; girls are evil and crazy; sell your daughter in slavery, dash the children of your enemies against rocks, slaughter away, keep women quiet… these stories make my blood curl. I feel like that old lady who stands on top of a stool with a broom in her hand trying to squash nasty mice.

What’s crazy is that many have listened to these stories and done exactly what these stories have told them to do. It makes me want to go back to our life as hunter-gatherers.

But we can’t go back.

So why not come up with better stories? Just like Abraham Lincoln did to end slavery. Or like Rachel Carson when writing Silent Spring which started the modern environmental movement. Or Gandhi, who said that if we all started poking people’s eyes because they poked ours, by and by the whole world would be blind. Stories like Buddha’s Second Noble Truth which says that people suffer because they crave stuff they don’t need, believe stupid stories, and because of their hatred and destructive urges.

Buddha started his life as a spoiled brat shielded from the outside world. Before he became known as ‘The Buddha,’ his name was Siddhartha Gautama. He was a prince, living in a luxurious palace with everything a boy could want. His father, the king, made sure he never suffered nor stepped foot beyond the palace walls. He did not want his son to go out into the world and see sick people, old people, or dead people. Only beautiful, young, and healthy people were allowed in the palace.

When he was about 16, Siddhartha married Yaśodharā who gave birth to their son, Rāhula. But even though Siddhartha had everything he wanted, something bugged him. He wanted to go beyond the palace walls and see the world for himself. One day, he ordered his charioteer to take him out into the city. On the road, they encountered a poor person, an old person, and a corpse. As they returned to the palace, Siddhartha passed a wandering monk wearing a simple robe. Siddhartha decided to become a monk, and left the palace, and his wife and son, in search for the answer to the problem of suffering in the world. Once he figured out what he thought was the cure for suffering, he became ‘The Buddha,’ for which the practice of Buddhism is known. Today, there are over 500 million people in the world who practice his teachings.

People like Buddha, Abraham Lincoln, Rachel Carson, Gandhi, and Jesus were heroic people. They were not locusts, like the Myce, but bees, like Minnows, taking care of the garden… trying to erase the vile and destructive ideas that originally spun out of the heads of the Myce. They came up with positive stories which enhance the wonderful unfolding story of our universe that began 13 Billion years ago.

That’s the purpose of this book. To write a better story and guide you on the path of a hero to grow to become a bee.

So now that you know where you come from, where you are, and have heard some of the stories — good and bad — that humans tell each other, you are ready to be trained in the Life Forces you will need to start your own adventure in life…


My call for a female revolt is not one of violence but leadership; a call for women to wrest the reins of power from the many weak and ignoble men who seem hellbent on maintaining the status-quo. To our luck, a growing number of inspiring women across the world have begun to do just that.

While their legions grow, I’ll keep working to ensure that the next generation of men rises to the occasion and joins its female counterpart — as comrades once again — for the urgent work ahead.


Jeffrey Erkelens is the creator of ‘The Hero in You,’ a book for boys (10–13) meant to guide them toward an evolved expression of manhood and help them develop the character strengths needed to become caring and passionate men of noble purpose. Sign up here to receive updates on the book’s upcoming publication.

Related content:

Understanding Prejudice – Teaching Boys to Confront their Innate Biases

Critical Thinking in a Crazy World

Warriors Wanted to Save the World!

The Great Purge of 2020

Refusing to return to “normal”

Can you hear it?

Like birdsong on the advent of spring, people around the world are beginning to sing for change.

Still scattered, but rapidly coalescing into a common melody, its key signature was just found graffitied inside an empty Hong Kong subway tunnel:

“We cannot return to normal because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”

Like drunkards waking up from a collective binge, many of us are shaking our heads and shuddering as we contemplate the mayhem wrought by our collective, all-too-human hubris, indifference, self-indulgence, and misplaced priorities.

How could we have been so blind? So self-centered and stupid?

Because you see, drunkards and junkies don’t binge with forethought. Prudence, I’m afraid, is not one of our strong suits. Yet, from the sound of it, it appears we’re finally waking up.

Our intuitive wisdom is making us sense that Covid-19 is not an isolated, temporary affliction, but symptomatic of a deeper sickness. The sickness of the human mind.

In the deathly quiet of isolation, people are clamoring for a new way forward. From balconies, windows and rooftops, many are shedding joyful tears and a collective sigh of relief as they witness nature quickly healing from the scourge of our rapacity, the blight of our addictions, the heavy footprint of our limitless appetites, the deep scars carved by our delusions, and the wounds inflicted by our untrammeled desires.

At last, we are singing due praise to the lowly delivery man and janitor, the migrant farm worker, the tireless nurse and teacher, the struggling artist, the dowdy cashier at the local store, our solitary postman — all the humble souls who so often went unrecognized, now our lifelines and heroes, while our once idolized celebrities cower inside their gleaming yachts and stately mansions sending us tone-deaf exhortations to image a world without possessions and corporate titans and politicians itch to rush us back to “normal.”

The kind of normal that accepts 7 million yearly deaths from air pollution as the price of doing business.

The normal that tolerates the daily loss of 9000 children to malnutrition while one third of all food is wasted.

The normal that is able to reconcile the staggering chasm between the annual $1.75 trillion wasted on the world’s war machine and the mere $166 Billion allocated to development aid.

Or the one that buys-in to the perversity of planned obsolescence willfully ignorant of how much of our electronic waste ends up trashing and poisoning the world’s poorest regions.

The normal of opulence living side-by-side with the homeless and growing deaths from despair.

Where the deaths of schoolchildren to mass shootings are brushed off as merely collateral damage in an ideological struggle.

The normal that accepts a dying planet in the name of progress.

That kind of normal.

Enough!’ seems the message people are shouting from their balconies in a massive shakeup of values and priorities.

We are beginning to recognize the limits of human power and the sham of our preeminence. That we are but one of millions of species inhabiting the planet. We are discovering that well-being and peace of mind are not measured by stock indices or the size of our homes or bank accounts. That the world’s entire arsenal of war is useless. That so long as one link is weak, or broken, we cannot call a chain strong. That death does not discriminate and that security is an illusion. That for too long, we have allowed others to define our standards of success, tell us what we need, or dictate what constitutes “normal” and a life well lived.

It’s like a great awakening from mass hypnosis and an opportunity to purge.

Perhaps our last.

In 2013, Universal Pictures released ‘The Purge,’ in which the New Founding Fathers of America — a totalitarian political party — are voted into office following an economic collapse. They pass a law sanctioning an annual “Purge” during which all crime — including murder, arson, theft, and rape — is legal for 12 hours. A chance for people to unleash their darkest impulses and vomit their pain on the world.

The 2020 pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a real life purge. Only this time, we are to remain indoors, there to raise a mirror to ourselves and come to terms, once and for all, with our complicity in the state of affairs.

If we are honest, we will have to admit that before Covid-19, we were already infected.

The affluenza virus we’ve spread across the world is coming back to haunt us, though its symptoms and effects were eating away at us way before Covid-19.

For long, we’ve been suffocating under hell-like wildfires, megadroughts, toxic air, poisoned waterways, contaminated food, dead bees, and the howls of the destitute and the displaced. We’ve been tumbling icebergs, bleaching coral reefs, felling forests, strip-mining mountaintops, exhausting the planet’s topsoil, and bringing death to countless life forms in Earth’s 6th mass extinction and, possibly, our own. In short, a serial gang-rape of the planet.

All along, Earth has been trying to make us change course by appealing to our intuition — the wise voice of instinct we share with our animal kin. Once intimately connected with nature, our feeling bodies have been warning us that our current path is unsustainable. Our increasing levels of stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness and feeling of utter meaninglessness are the language our bodies have been using to tell us something is fundamentally wrong in the way we live, think, relate, consume, and waste.

Under the eerie cloak of silence that has descended upon our loud, frenzied lives, we have the chance to listen and purge, to heal and recover so we may begin repairing the damage we have caused.

The Great Purge of 2020 is a call to self-revolt. To rid humanity of its delusions and irrational impulses. To arrest its godlike powers and bring an end to its assault on itself and the planet. Now that we know how helpless and powerless we truly are, it is also a call to humility. To admit we don’t have all the answers. To reorder our priorities, reconsider our values, and redefine ourselves as human beings, instead of human havings.

“To put the world in order we must put the nation in order. To put the nation in order, we must put the family in order. To put the family in order we must first set our hearts right.” — Chinese philosopher Confucius

Setting our hearts right begins by realizing our tenuous hold on life. If we are to learn anything from this pandemic, let it be the shocking awareness of our mortality, not at some distant point in the future, but at any given moment.

At every doorstep, rich and poor alike, Covid-19 has placed a Memento Mori: a reminder that our precious life can end at any second.

“Let that determine what we do and say and think,” counseled Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, for there is no time for anything but meaningful acts if we live with death as our eternal companion, added Carlos Castaneda, centuries later. These profound truths should suffice to make us purge the flashy items in our bucket list and replace them with what truly matters.

With our priorities rightly ordered, we can keep setting our hearts right by cultivating the four cardinal virtues of classical antiquity, defined by Roman statesman Cicero as: “A habit of mind in harmony with reason and the order of nature consisting of four character traits: Prudence, Justice, Courage, and Temperance.”

Prudence: also described as wisdom, is the ability to judge between actions. It’s that sweet spot, between stimulus and response, wherein lies our power to choose, as said Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. A prudent person, for example, doesn’t drunk-shop — a $48B affliction, in today’s world.

In Stoic philosophy, prudence is understanding what’s important in life and living accordingly.

No man can have whatever he wants, but he has it in his power not to wish for what he doesn’t have and cheerfully make the most of the things that come his way. — Marcus Aurelius

Justice: also considered as fairness, was considered by Aurelius as the source of all other virtues, one extending beyond Confucius’ Golden Rule: Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like them to do to you. For the Stoics, the scope of justice must also consider our duty to our fellow beings. It’s “the principle which constitutes the bond of human society and of [the]community of life,” said Cicero.

The belief in the interdependence of everything in the universe —  that we are all one — is perhaps the Stoics’ most radical idea.

“What injures the hive injures the bee.” — Marcus Aurelius

Once this pandemic ends, Aurelius’ admonition should make us refuse the self checkout line at the supermarket, for example, to protect the livelihood and cross smiles and small talk with Iris, who, for all we know, may depend on her cashier’s job to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments and help with her son’s crippling college debt. Post Covid-19, we will hopefully trade convenience for connection. Comfort for belonging. Choose to do without, to grow within.

Temperance: is the practice of self-control, abstention, and restraint of our irrational appetites. Greek philosopher Aristotle called it the “Golden Mean,” found between excess and deficiency. Excessive desires are nothing but symptoms of discontent and dissatisfaction. Temperance is the knowledge that abundance comes from having what is essential, of realizing you can never get enough of what you didn’t need in the first place, as said nurse and author Mary Ellen Edmunds.

Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? First, to have what is necessary, and second, to know what is enough. It is not the man who has too little but the man who craves more that is poor. – Seneca

Courage: also named fortitude, is endurance, inner strength, forbearance, and the bravery to confront and overcome your fears, prejudices, and misconceptions. The courage to face misfortune, to risk yourself for the sake of your fellow man. Courage to hold to your principles, even when others get away with or are rewarded for disregarding theirs. Courage to speak your mind and insist on truth.

I know perfectly well that death is invincible. Man’s worth, however, lies not in victory but in the struggle for victory. His worth lies in that he live and die bravely without condescending to accept any recompense; with the certainty that no recompense exists, and that that certainty, far from making our blood run cold, must fill us with joy, pride, and courage. — Nikos Kazantzakis

With our hearts thus set right by the recognition of our unpredictable time on earth and through daily cultivation of a virtuous life, we must purge our cynicism to recover the idealism of youth. The ‘can-do’ spirit that dares imagine a better world even if it seems impractical or unrealistic.

Imagination sparks when we unclutter our minds from the adult affliction of common sense. – Physicist Brian Cox

For who’s to say certain types of irrational thinking aren’t exactly what the world needs? asks 12 year-old Adora Svitak. “Kids aren’t hampered as much when it comes to thinking about reasons why not to do things,” she says. “Kids can be full of aspirations and hopeful thinking, like my wish that no one went hungry, or everything were free… kind of utopia. How many still dream this way and believe in the possibilities? In many ways, our audacity to imagine helps push the boundaries of possibility.”

The fact the current pandemic struck us on the advent of spring is profoundly symbolic and meaningful. As Nature unfurls her bounteous spectacle of renewal, she is beckoning us to do the same. Like Jesus on Golgotha, we are undergoing our own crucifixion — the chance to purge ourselves from the ego-cravings of the Self to be reborn in spirit. A precious opportunity to push the boundaries of possibility and bring about a new normal to the world.

I realize that weaning ourselves from our previous way of life will be massively disruptive. Recovering from affluenza will undoubtedly lend a death blow to many industries which (let’s face it) only exist to feed our addictions, temporarily assuage our insecurities, and prop-up our fragile egos. Going forward, it may indeed be the highest wisdom to elect to be a nobody in a relative paradise rather than a celebrity in a world that has lost all sense of values, as said Henry Miller. No guiding morality, I claim, can develop without a hierarchy of values.

Refusing to return to normal will be disruptive, surely, but I’m convinced that in its stead, novel trades, communities, cities, technologies, art forms, and life experiences will emerge which respond to our true needs, are focused on what matters, and in harmony with the whole.

That, anyway, is my song.

Those who insist on returning to “normal” would do the world a great favor by booking themselves a one-way ticket to Mercury.

I hear it’s pretty nice up there… 800 degrees during the day; minus 300 at night. Lots of rocks.


Related articles:

A Black Swan and a Dark Age

What Now, Pandora?

Something Extraordinary Happened

 

Adventure, Danger, Honor, and Glory

The path of the male warrior.

My inner barbarian awoke from its civilized slumber while binge-watching documentaries on wars of conquest and the rise and fall of empires.

I felt unsettled, tugged by two contrary forces: one modernly conscious (woke?) — scoffing at the sight of grown men acting out their atavistic impulses and yearnings for status and glory through battlefield carnage — the other, an unconscious stirring, marked by goosebumps, raised hair, a quickened pulse and puffing chest with every scene depicting the victors raising their bloodstained weapons and hollering like madmen.

There I was, thinking I had evolved… no longer bound by instinct.

Adventure, with all its requisite danger, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. — John Eldredge, ‘Wild at Heart’

I realized it will take more than gentle appeals for inclusion, vulnerability, empathy and compassion to ‘correct’ a man’s tendency towards tribal aggression forged during millions of years in evolutionary history. Fully taming the warrior fierceness in men, I further concluded, is not only impossible, but foolish and dangerous.

Consider the runup to World War II.

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler on three occasions, finally conceding the Sudetenland, in northern Czechoslovakia, in exchange for Germany making no further demands for land in Europe. Chamberlain boasted it was “Peace for our time.” Hitler salivated, and, emboldened by Chamberlain’s fragility, invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia, followed by Poland — on 9.1.39 — the day the British finally declared war. Chamberlain resigned shortly after and was replaced by Winston Churchill, nicknamed “The Bulldog” for his dogged tenacity and ferociousness. The United States joined the fight in 1941, and, to this day, the Americans who helped free the world from the scourge of Hitler’s diabolical ideology are revered as “The Greatest Generation.”

Today, young men have few paths to greatness. No mighty struggles, no crusades, no calls to conquest (besides video games), no loftier badge of honor than a virtual sword, and no codes of conduct like those which guided the Knights of the Round Table and the Samurai in Japan.

Yet, the stirring remains… always will, and the consequences of not leading boys and young men onto paths to glory through heroic quests are self-evident.

Many of the things that parents have nightmares about (risk taking, alcohol, drugs, and criminal activity) happen because we do not find channels for young men’s desire for glory and heroic roles. Boys look out at the larger society and see little to believe in or join with. They want to jump somewhere better and higher, but that place is nowhere in sight.— From ‘Raising Boys’ by Steve Biddulph

That place, Steve, is everywhere in sight. There are enough worthy battles out in the world to test the strongest of men. But in our society’s misguided attempt to tame the wild spirit of boys, they now cower and fear its expression, or, worse, vent it through self-harm or harm to others. “Some boys are so afraid they will become domestic,” says Robert Bly, “that they become savage, not wild.

If we are to overcome the challenges of the 21st Century, we better change our messaging, fast.

Rather than telling boys there is something fundamentally wrong about being male, I suggest we teach them how to harness their innate fierce energy in service to a cause greater than themselves. Let us drag them — kicking and screaming — out of their dark rooms and away from their screens to initiate them into spirited men of noble purpose!

Let’s inspire them with tales of true heroes; not the super-kind, nor those whose only proof of worth is their wealth, fame, or online celebrity. I’m talking about ordinary people. Those who have dared respond to the calling of their age and brought their unique talents to bear on the challenges of their time.

Let’s instruct them on the innate wiring of the male software — with both its virtues and glitches — and allow them to tinker with it until coding an evolved expression of manhood.

While we’re at it, let’s help them demystify the female gender so, when reaching puberty, they’ll know how to relate to women with realism and respect rather than through the confusing and delusory spectacle of porn.

Further, we must help boys develop a code of honor and conduct and the strengths of character essential for a flourishing life and to withstand and overcome the inevitable obstacles, disappointments and defeats inherent in every hero’s journey. They must learn, from the start, that life is neither a cakewalk in wonderland, nor a buffet where one gets to choose what one wants. It’s a sit-down dinner, where what is served is what they must eat — joys, sorrows, victories, failure, love, rejection, loss… the whole enchilada.

Above all, we must let them know they are needed.

Because right now, about the only thing our well meaning, but confused culture is telling boys is that they’re toxic and not wanted. This, while the world burns and gets overtaken by chest-thumping bullies and highchair tyrants. We are, I fear, nurturing a generation of Chamberlains, drained of all masculine power, and if history can teach us anything at all, it is that the most dangerous man is not one with power but one who feels powerless. Hitler was such a man.

My warning has nothing to do with raising boys under idiotic injunctions like “men don’t cry” or “man-up!” As I’ve said before, men’s seeming incapacity for emotional intelligence is partly responsible for warfare. But a crucial line must be drawn between being empathic and being weak. “Brave men are vertebrates,” said British author, G.K. Chesterton, “they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle. Modern cowards are all crustaceans; their hardness is all on the cover and their softness is inside.”

Our world could use more vertebrates, right about now. We need fierce, gentle warriors steeled with an inner strength informed by the wisdom of water — supple, pliable, but ferocious, persevering, and invincible!


Related reading:

My Father Would’ve been a Nazi

 

Walking Away From It All

Escape with purpose.

You’ve probably heard some version of the story of the father who left the house one night to buy cigarettes and never came back.

Most would call him a ‘douche,’ and would be right, in some cases. But what about the others? What compels them to walk away?

You cannot tell me you’ve never felt the impulse. Late at night, perhaps, after a hard day, looking out the window by a sink full of dirty dishes and glasses trying to catch your breath, wondering if there is not more to life, and longing to leave everything behind to find out.

This unease led Siddhārtha Gautama to leave the comforts of his father’s palace, his wife Yaśodharā and newborn son Rāhula toward a spiritual journey to discover the causes and remedies for human suffering.

Call the Buddha an enlightened deadbeat, if you must.

The world would not have Paul Gauguin’s exquisite painting ‘Orana Maria’ had he chosen to remain by his family’s side in Copenhagen, making no money selling French tarpaulins to a Danish market who did not want his tarpaulins instead of risking everything to travel alone to Tahiti in search of a new vision in art.

Orana Maria

On the same year and country my father was born, George Dibbern left his wife and three daughters and sailed his 32-foot ketch ‘Te Rapunga’ toward New Zealand to reunite with his Maori spiritual Mother.

The world was marching toward a second world carnage. Unemployment in Germany had reached four million. Suicides were a daily occurrence. Idle and in despair, the citizens of the Weimar Republic of the 1930s were besieged by a dizzying number of political parties spouting their competing ideologies, each claiming to have the answer to their predicament.

In the middle of this maelstrom stood George Dibbern, unable to subscribe to any of them.

Te Rapunga’ means longing, or seeking, and is referenced in the third step of the Maori creation myth — the predawn moment of anticipation.

While still in Germany, Dibbern tried to make ends meet by operating a shipyard with his cousin. But the business was failing. To raise money, he twice sold the ‘Te Rapunga’ only to have it returned to him when the buyers could not come up with the cash to pay him.

Think about it: Dibbern tried twice to rid himself of his longing but it kept coming back. Having twice denied mine, every time I think of this part of his story, I recall this poem by the Greek Constantine Cavafy:

“Like the beautiful bodies of those who died before they had aged,

sadly shut away in a sumptuous mausoleum,

roses by the head, jasmine at the feet — 

so appear the longings that have passed

without being satisfied, not one of them granted

a night of sensual pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.”

The shipyard business failed and Dibbern had no other choice but join a rock-breaking crew. At the end of his rope, he considered:

At present, I can no longer be a member of one nation, only a member of a larger group —  humanity. I cannot grow roots here; I think so differently from everyone else. I am not meant to be what I am now. What is the good of adapting myself ninety-nine times.

What’s madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance? — Theodore Roethke

One night, back from his back-breaking job, George entered the kitchen, looked at his wife, and asked: “What would you do if I were dead?”

Faced with her stupefaction — quickly morphing into rage and despair — George tried to clarify what he meant: how he already felt dead, but dead in life.

A few weeks later, he set sail.

Te Rapunga

Writer Henry Miller said this about Dibbern:

“He takes the path in order to become the path. Some might think that George was unadaptable, a man unfit for human society. This is not true. If anything, it is society which is unfit to accommodate itself to a man like Dibbern. It is the purity and integrity of men like Dibbern which make it difficult for them to fit in our world. Living his own life in his own way, Dibbern makes us realize how much life can be enjoyed even on the fringe of society. It is not his ideal; he is striving desperately to participate, to be at one with his fellow man, but on the best terms, i.e., on the terms of his own best self. Nor did he wait to lead the ideal existence until some mythical day in the future. He lived the ideal life right then — as much as he dared and could. And that is the difference between a rebel and a man of spirit.”

As Dibbern was saying goodbye to his three young daughters, he thought:

Perhaps it is more important that, someday, I may be an understanding comrade to my children than be a provider now.

Pretty gracious, if you ask me.

For of what use is it to children to see their father return from work with a lifeless look in his eyes as he contemplates all his denied longings pustulating like unstitched wounds? To hear him vilify his boss, ridicule his co-workers, recount the office skullduggery, complain about the long hours and the commute, or fret about the bills as he finishes his third glass of wine while mindlessly thumbing his cellphone.

Many fathers exact on the hides and hearts of their children the ire of their frustrations, the thunderbolts of their distress, the suffocating anguish of their dispassionate marriages, the festering anger of their unfulfilled desires, and the dull ache of their tedious, apathetic existence.

No surprise most children fear growing up, or rebel against their elders.

In that wretched state, what wisdom can a father impart if he hasn’t taken the time to grapple with the thorniest questions of existence, or the courage to journey through the dark and malodorous corridors of his psyche until coming to terms with the angel in himself and the devil in himself, or the humility to challenge all the mythologies he has half-wittingly accepted as truth? In that state, it would be more benevolent if he met each of his children’s questions with: “I don’t know,” rather than playing God twenty-four hours a day.

Soon after sailing, believing a flag represented one’s beliefs and principles, George Dibbern refused to fly the obligatory Nazi flag with the swastika and raised one of his own design. He later rejected his German passport and created his own with the following declaration:

“I, George Dibbern, through long years in different countries and sincere friendship with many people in many lands, feel my place to be outside of nationality, a citizen of the world and a friend of all peoples. I recognize the divine origin of all nations and therefore their value in being as they are, respect their laws, and feel my existence solely as a bridge of good fellowship between them. This is why, on my own ship, I fly my own flag, why I have my own passport and so place myself, without other protection, under the goodwill of the world.”

Here’s the thing about walking away, though. If it serves no other purpose than to run away from responsibility, it is as pointless and futile as taking a vacation to “recharge.”

All successful escape artists have one life saving trick: they know all about their chains.

Most of us don’t.

That’s the reason our escapes are fleeting.

So very few ever think of taking leave that they too might enjoy the fruits of paradise. Almost invariably they’ll confess that they lack the courage or imagination. “Too late” he probably murmurs to himself. How illustrative, this attitude, of the woeful resignation men and women succumb to! What stays him, usually, is the fear of the sacrifices involved. Even to relinquish his chains seems like a sacrifice. — Henry Miller

Walking away (from work, the rat-race, the place you live, your relationship, etc.) is meaningless unless you arrive at a new orientation to life. Otherwise, it’s just like any other vacation, for which, under your shorts, Tommy Bahama shirts, flip-flops, sunscreen and hat, you fold and pack your same old prejudices, addictions, illusions, self-delusions, fears, insecurities, vanities, and hungers, and then, upon returning, you realize you never took the time to unpack, air-out, inspect, and transform all that junk, so when you pop open your suitcase it all comes flying back out again, back into your closet, there to continue haunting you until your next escape.

I know this well, having attempted it a few times with disastrous consequences.

But the latter, during which you reorient yourself to life, that is a spiritual journey, which begins when you doubt the conventions and deals of the mundane world and walk towards an unknown destination — like Buddha to the Bodhi Tree, Gauguin to Tahiti, and Dibbern to the open sea. The real escapist, you see, is the man who adapts himself to a world he does not subscribe to. It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society, said Krishnamurti.

And it is not just doubting societal conventions but realizing how many you’ve half-wittingly adopted as your own. What’s essential is to examine each shiny trinket you have received as part of your initiation into the modern world, and above all, to discover what treasure you’re giving up in exchange. Your entire life?

For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul — Jesus

A prison break is no easy matter; you must first know all about your prison. A new world is not simply made by trying to forget the old, Henry Miller proclaimed, but made with a new spirit, with new values. Contrary to what many believe, it doesn’t require you to go anywhere. In fact, it’s often the case that a “change in scenery” only creates further distractions that will lead you astray.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes, said writer Marcel Proust, and it’s one that is yours alone to undertake.

“It cannot be undertaken other than by ourselves,” said famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. “In the story of the Arthurian knights, each set out in search of the Grail (a spiritual, rather than a material goal) by ‘entering the forest at its darkest part,’ that is, at the place where no one has cut a path before.”

Most never break free, leaving it up to the next generation, as Rainer Maria Rilke poignantly rendered in this poem :

“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,

stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,

so that his children have to go far out into the world

toward that same church, which he forgot.”

Buddha showed us a path away from suffering.

Gauguin gave us the Orana Maria.

Dibbern left us a chronicle of his spiritual journey in his book ‘Quest.’

If you are to remain “inside the dishes and in the glasses,” unable or unwilling to break free, the next time you hear a story of a man who did, think twice before you judge him, for he may one day return with a gift for you and the rest of humankind.


Read my escape story.

Do you have a minute?

Busy (Johns Hopkins Health Review)
Source: John Hopkins Health Review

Probably not, uh?

Shocking, isn’t it? For all our time-saving devices, we just don’t have time.

The fact is, we do. It’s just crammed with new distractions created by the engine of commerce.

What’s ironic is that we work longer and longer hours to make more money to hand over to swindlers to come up with new distractions to stave our boredom. It is a mad chase for jolts of dopamine, and, like any addiction, the doses must be increasingly potent.

The whole American economy would collapse if we all recovered from our addictions. — Erica Jong

We would not be bored had we lived prior the Industrial Revolution. That’s because the word was only first used in 1853 by Charles Dickens, in ‘Bleak House,’ to describe the chronic malady of modern life.

The rapid expansion of factories spewing ‘time-saving’ contraptions inaugurated the concept of “leisure time” quickly crowded by new distractions — circuses, theatrical extravaganzas, tourism, Disneyland, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram… the Smartphones right next to you and me.

German philosopher Theodor Adorno called Walt Disney the most dangerous man in America. He wasn’t against leisure time; simply questioning what we choose to do with it. It’s not enough to be busy, said Henry David Thoreau, so are ants. The question is: what are we busy about?

Adorno realized that our longings are craftily repackaged by capitalist industry, so that we end up forgetting what we truly need and settle instead for desires manufactured by corporations with no interest in our wellbeing.

We must shift America from a ‘needs’ to a ‘desires-culture,’ said Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street Banker during the Great Depression. “People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.

Though we think we live in a world of plenty, Adorno said, what we really require to thrive — tenderness, belonging, calm, insight, friendship, love — is in painfully short supply and utterly disconnected from the economy. Capitalism’s tools of mass manipulation exploit our genuine longings to sell us items which leave us poorer and psychologically depleted.

Pay close attention to most advertisements and you’ll discover the ruse.

Checking-out is no easy matter. The hook is deeply wedged in our brains. Rehab is the enemy of the great persuaders; our modern-day snake oil peddlers. They can’t afford us escaping the insane asylum and checking ourselves into a quiet space to restore our sanity; to alleviate our dis-ease. If we did, not only would we discover how enslaved we are but realize that the shackles were forged by our own hands.

A prison break is no easy matter; you must first know all about your prison. — Henry Miller

Bill Levitt, father of American suburbia, perversely said no man who owns his own home and lot can be a Communist, he has too much to do. Keep the herd busy, docile, and entertained to prevent it from discovering the fraud.

A man’s constant escapism into busyness is the greatest source of his unhappiness, suggested Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, a sentiment echoed by Blaise Pascal who said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to sit quietly in his room.

We no longer know what to do in quietude. We fidget, look around for our cell phone, check the clock, fidget and fret some more. Simple things no longer deliver enough dopamine to stimulate our nerve cells. If we take a walk out in nature, our overstimulated brains are no longer reactive to a placid landscape but require more intense colors, harsher sounds, perhaps a flame-throwing squirrel torching aspens to ash. Not nature-as-it-is, but nature as we see on screens. We wish to edit the natural world as we edit our photos to the point where we no longer distinguish reality from fantasy and fantasy ends up being more stimulating because it’s chock-full of dopamine.

You might be familiar with the famous experiment conducted in the 1950s by psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner in which they connected electrodes to the brains of rats enabling them to create sensations of excitement (dopamine) simply by pressing a pedal. This was a pleasure center, a reward circuit, the activation of which was much more powerful than any natural stimulus. A series of subsequent experiments revealed that rats preferred pleasure stimulation to food (even when they were hungry) and water (even when they were thirsty). Self-stimulating male rats would ignore a female in heat and would repeatedly scurry across shock-delivering floor grids to reach the lever. Female rats would abandon their nursing pups to continually press the lever. Some rats would do this as often as 2000 times per hour for 24 hours, to the exclusion of all other activities. They had to be unhooked from the apparatus to prevent death by self-starvation. Pressing that lever became their entire world.

rate race.jpg
Image credit: stevecutts.com

Many use busyness and distractions to escape their reality, to remove themselves from their suffering, and, simultaneously, from the suffering of the world. Thus unattended, the wounds never heal.

Only that life is worth living which develops the strength and the integrity to withstand the unavoidable sufferings and misfortunes of existence without flying into an imaginary world. — Friedrich Nietzsche

Is reality all that bad, or have we been made to believe it is?

Confucius found it rather sour. He believed that the present was out of step with the past, and that the only way to achieve harmony was through strict adherence to ancient rituals and ceremonies.

Buddha found it bitter and preached the doctrine of detachment as the path to bliss.

Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, rejected labels altogether. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed on existence, he said, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life seem “sour” or “bitter”.

Writer Henry Miller said the word reality should not have a sinister and fatalistic ring. The man who is truly awake and completely alive, he said, is a man for whom reality will always be close to ecstasy.

But ecstasy, at root, means “standing outside oneself” which would put us back in an imaginary world. Perhaps Miller was referring to a feeling of joyful excitement, rooted in the reality of our ordinary world.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell said he didn’t think humans were necessarily seeking a meaning for life as much as an experience of being alive, so that our experiences on the physical plane (the world as it is) resonate with our innermost being and reality making us actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Both Miller and Campbell are pointing at feelings of intense joy.

Campbell went a step further and added “innermost being,” meaning eudaimonia: the process of living in accord with our essence and realizing our unique potential. Work done in accord with our essence and in service to a higher purpose will never feel like work.

We all would love to describe our careers like filmmaker William Herzog:

“A holiday is a necessity for someone whose work is an unchanged daily routine, but for me, everything is constantly fresh and always new. I love what I do, and my life feels like one long vacation.”

The slogans of the travel industry — escape, unwind, recharge — have no effect on a man like Herzog.

“It is a melancholy commentary upon the nature of our modern industrial system,” wrote John Cowper Powys, “that in any consideration of happiness we are compelled to leave what is called ‘work’ entirely out of our thoughts. There are few occupations left worthy of the self-respect of the human race. Happiness, [for most], whether manual slaves or mental slaves of the monstrous profit system, must be something snatched at in contemptuous independence of what they call ‘our life’s work.’”

Perhaps, this is why so many eagerly swallow the quack medicine peddled by the great persuaders. To alleviate the tedium and lack of higher purpose of most jobs which burns them out without ever having been on fire. They chase ‘spirits’ in the guise of alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, pornography, consumerism, and non-stop distractions to assuage the pain and ennui of a spiritless life. Or because they feel unworthy, seek specious validation from a crowd of virtual judges through their social media posts.

Dopamine, instead of eudaimonia.

Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have. — Doris Mortman

The difference between who you are and what you have was thoroughly explored by social psychologist Erich Fromm in his book ‘The Art of Being.’

“The full humanization of man,“ he said, “requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation; from selfishness and egotism, to solidarity and altruism.”

Fromm was not advocating asceticism. Orientation toward “being” is not identical with “not-having.” He was, I suppose, simply echoing what Gandhi said decades before: “You do not have to renounce any of your possessions; you have to renounce the possessor.”

Three years ago, I did precisely that. Actually, went a step further and renounced most of my possessions and checked myself into spiritual rehab agreeing fully with Krishnamurti who said it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

The symptoms of withdrawal, I discovered, were more acutely felt by society than by me. Strange, how little man belongs to himself, said Henry Miller, how much he is yet the community’s property. If one follows one’s own conscience, everybody objects.

The objections are the terrified squeals of the infernal machine that insists that if the gears stop spinning, the world will come to an end. That’s the whole purpose behind its manufactured distractions — to keep us from thinking for ourselves and follow our own drumbeat. It can’t afford to give us a minute to sit in quietude lest we begin to pick the lock of the illusory doors of our prison.

(If you’re still with me and have not once checked your phone, social media, or email, it means I am succeeding in slowly lifting the veil to reveal the fraud perpetrated by the Great Wizards).

Walking away is not the point. A new world is not made by trying to forget the old, said Miller. A new world is made with a new spirit, with new values.

The first step I took was examine the script I had been playing. I then edited-out the parts which did not resonate with my innermost being which kept me from feeling the rapture of being alive. I gave myself permission to be myself, so to speak.

Next, I thought hard on what exactly filled me with delight. In this domain, children have it licked, because, as modern-day philosopher Alain the Botton said, they don’t know what they are supposed to like and they don’t understand money, so price is never a guide of value to them. They have to rely instead on their own delight in the intrinsic merits of the things they’re presented with. It is easy to comprehend why Jesus said that theirs was the Kingdom of Heaven — the Kingdom, mind you, of the here and now.

Having once possessed the wealth many covet, I realized simpler pleasures yielded greater delight. I also discovered that while the quick-pulse intensity of a passionate life sounds alluring, it is short-lived and produces the same burnout than the one I felt working 14-hour days.

So I scratched-off the words “happiness” and “passion” from my script and replaced them with euthymia and ataraxia, Greek words for serenity and to describe a state where we abstain from unnecessary desires and achieve an inner tranquility by being content with simple things. I traded dopamine for serotonin, if you will; a glass of bubbly champagne for a cup of warm milk.

I have not lost wealth but distractions. The body’s needs are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment; if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves to serve our vices, not our needs. — Seneca

Once done writing my own code of values, I worked on placing my life in an eudaimonic state; the state of living in accord with my essence to actualize my unique potential. I knew I could write well and felt called to use that talent for a greater purpose than entertainment. I did not want to escape high-up to a mountain and, there, cut-off from society, indulge in navel-gazing, endless self-improvement, or self-righteous pontifications of what it is to live the ‘good life’. I wanted to share the saga of my trials and tribulations to recover the ancient purpose of entertainment, which, in Greek tragicomedy, held the audience together in shared suffering, or joy, or both, leading to catharsis.

I then looked around the world to find a need that could use my talents; something which made me shudder and lit a fire in my belly. That’s when I began writing The Hero in You.

Here’s the thing, though…

I’m either speaking an unintelligible language, or the world doesn’t want to listen to those coming between the distracted and the distractions. The infernal machine appears hell-bent in ostracizing those who rock the boat and will ensure that those who rebel quickly find themselves unable to survive.

Most days, I feel like a baker who has unearthed an ancient recipe for wholesome, nutritious bread, only to find the marketplace crowded with people gorging on Wonder Bread and Twinkies laced with listicles promising instant wellbeing, power, esteem, love, wealth, and approbation. While ancient grains are harder to digest, I promise they are better for you.

Bake Twinkies! many urge, and people will flock to your bread stand.

I admit I’ve been tempted, just like Christ was in the desert; Buddha under the Bodhi Tree.

(If I still have your attention, it means the rebellion stands a chance!)

In every prototypical hero’s journey, this is the moment when the hero faces the greatest test.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight. — E.E. Cummings

Because I am writing a book for boys meant to guide them towards a life of authenticity and purpose, I have no choice but to press on, come what may. I’ll keep stealing a minute of everyone’s time to find our way out of the madhouse.


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Time out!

Let the phone and email go unanswered, the post and tweet ignored, the news unchecked, stocks untraded, the appointment missed, the meeting skipped. Let the mailman take the day off.

Abandoned Carrousel (lucas-sparks.com)
Image source: lucas-sparks.com

Sometimes I find myself wishing the world would just stop.

Wishing someone would make all stoplights turn red; throw a monkey-wrench into the gears of the madly-spinning carousel with its panting, sweat-lathered horses; someone to yell “Freeze!” inside the circus tent suspending twirling trapeze artists in mid-air, cut the steam off the calliope, lift the needle off the blaring phonograph, flip-off the world’s main breaker switch plunging humanity into quietude.

Just for a while.

Let the phone and email go unanswered, the post and tweet ignored, the news unchecked, stocks untraded, the appointment missed, the meeting skipped. Let the mailman take the day off.

Time out!

Just long enough for us to come together and figure out what the hell we’re doing.

After all, we do it to our kids.

“Go to your room and think about what you’ve done and don’t come out until you’ve found your ways and manners!”

Time out (Comstock - Getty Images)
Source: Comstock – Getty Images

It’s shameful, yet delightfully ironic, that kids are the ones now sending ‘adults’ to the corner.

Kids like fifteen year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Jamie Margolin (17), founder of Zero Hour, thirteen year-old activist Alexandria Villasenor, co-founder of US Youth Climate Strike, Emma Gonzalez (19) and David Hogg (19), founders of the anti-gun violence group March for our Lives, etc.

What have you done?” “What are you doing?” seem the questions they are posing to the generation in charge.

Shut up! You’re too young to know any better. We must keep spinning the carousel. If it stops, we’ll be catapulted and smashed to bits!

Sssh the sea says

Sssh the small waves at the

Shore say sssh

Not so violent, not

So haughty, not

So remarkable

Sssh. — Rolf Jacobsen

Would we, tough? Would we really be smashed into bits once we’ve recovered from our addictions? The world wouldn’t stop spinning, would it? Just the grindstone grating us to anxious dust.

Three years ago, I stepped off the carousel and turned-in my badge certifying me as an inmate of the insane carnival and took a time out. I’m happy to report I have never been more whole.

I had felt trapped inside a bullet train racing at breakneck speed to a destination fuzzily defined by its conductors as “progress” while the friction of wheels against rails shot heated sparks scorching the landscape outside. I looked out the window and realized I was missing sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight, moonrises, dragonflies, the sea’s soundprint inside seashells…and my time was running out.

Sssh

Inside the train I kept hearing outrage, gunshots, screams, groans of despair, and hollow laughter. I saw burnt out grownups in endless shifts shoveling coal into the train’s insatiable furnace and children with terror in their eyes.

When I asked the train conductors to explain what exactly they meant by “progress,” they scoffed.

“Why, a better life, of course. You fool!”

When pressed for clarity, they said things like “growth, immortality, abundance, eternal happiness, immutability, and absolute power and control.”

I knew I had to step out.

Long had I bought-in to these stories. Actually contributed to their dizzying incantations, convinced that if we stopped spinning the tales, the skein would unravel.

It took me a while to detox and become centered.

When you spin in place a hundred times and suddenly stop, unless you’re a whirling dervish, it takes a while to regain your footing. You’re off-balance and disoriented, mostly guilt-ridden for not contributing coal to the furnace.

Immortality, Immutability, Eternal Happiness, Absolute Power and Control

Like a silkworm, I’ve been munching on the mulberry leaves of these insane notions trying to come up with better silk, such as “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” or “an organism at war with itself is doomed,” or “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” or, “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” Truths spoken by Gandhi, Carl Sagan, Krishnamurti, and Jesus — the bees of our world, in epic battle against the locusts.

I’m writing my way into their hive, offering my talents to stop the bullet train before it’s too late.

Perhaps it is…

I confess there are days when I lose heart. Days when I just want to throw up my hands in defeat, move to an island in the South Pacific, and there, lulled by the waves’ whispers, wait for Armageddon while enjoying what little remains of this once paradisiacal little blue planet while the locusts finish it off.

What stops me are the children.

I do not wish to come out empty handed from my time out and face their opprobrium.

“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” asked poet Antonio Machado.

I want to answer Machado with something other than dead flowers, withered petals, yellow leaves, despair, death, and devastation.

My time out has allowed me to discover it is not so much a matter of writing alternative stories but simply harmonizing with the magnificent score written in the cosmos at the moment of the Big Bang fifteen billion years ago. We’re just playing off beat and out of tune.

We demand immutability from a Universe in a state of constant fluidity and change.

We deride and reject balance and pursue growth for the sake of growth which is the ideology of the cancer cell.

We consume way beyond our needs to distract ourselves from facing the gaping holes in our hearts.

We rail against decay and death, forgetting the Universe’s Second Law of Thermodynamics necessary for new life to emerge.

We forget we all came from stardust; that we all share the same constituent parts and then dare see diversity as ‘the Other.’

Inside the bullet-train, in self-imposed exile from Earth, we consider her not as a living organism that sustains us, but as a giant glittering mall, inexhaustible supermarket, and massive dump-ground for our waste.

In such disharmony, many still wonder why they remain so afraid, depressed, distressed, burned-out, insecure, and soul-starved.

But they keep shoveling coal into the furnace; spinning the carousel while seeking endless distractions and swallowing magic pills to prevent them from looking inside and out the window and realize what they’ve done and keep doing. Meanwhile, children gaze with terror in their eyes sensing the solid wall awaiting the train in the not-too-distant future and they can’t get out.

For now, it seems the Locusts are winning, but

shhh

listen carefully,

and you’ll hear the growing buzz of bees.

An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted, said playwright Arthur Miller.

The Age of the Locusts is almost over. But they won’t give up without an epic fight.

This is not a cosmic battle of Good vs Evil. Simply a clash of bad imagination vs one that speaks the language of sustainability, balance, harmony, serenity, tolerance, awe, wonder, and delight.

It is the language of bees, and I have now joined their legion.

My book, The Hero in You, is the nectar I intend to pass on to younger ones for them to turn into wax and honey to gum up the wheels of the bullet train until it comes to rest giving the world an urgent time out.

The Universe doesn’t give second chances.


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