What do men really need?
What is ultimate bliss for a man? What is that special something that makes me different from those desires of a woman? What makes me in essence, unmistakably masculine in my heart?
I was talking to a good friend of mine yesterday. He’s doing a TEFL training course. He’s under pressure yet inspired by it, tired yet thrilled by the intensity of his experience – and in his late 50s he’s rediscovering his edge. Undiscovered country. New land. A new test.
A man’s edges thrill, inspire and challenge him. I like being challenged. I need to map out new boundaries and terrain. I have only met a handful of truly fulfilled men, and they are constantly within their adventures, mapping out new lands, charting new territory. My experience of men is that we admire each other for our activity and courage, often in the face of danger or risk. Women admire us for this too. When I shy away from that risk, I neglect something about my core, my essence; I withhold my spiritual gift.
I’d worked as a drama teacher for over 20 years, a master of creative inspiration and technique, a man with the Midas touch: miracle-maker! At a jot I could turn the most mediocre theatre work into gold. I led class after class to their creative brink, to doors of their newly found artistic freedom. But I’d mastered my edge long before. The inspirational production line stopped rolling, breakdown and burnout came knocking. Depression began to eat me up as my soul shrank, my offering crumbled and the lights began to go out.
I didn’t want to see it.
I couldn’t hear the cry.
My edge was clear back then. My purpose unclouded. I was a teacher and I shaped theatre. We made the unrealised possible and the undiscovered known. I’d held that unchartered land for many rising performers and students. My edges were the windows I provided for their creative potential. How beautifully or thrillingly I could make that happen was my ultimate edge. I thought it was about them, and of course it was, but actually, it was still deeply about me.
Understanding that your life is not about you is the connection point with everything else. It lowers the mountains, and fills in the valley that we have created. (Richard Rohr – Adam’s Return)
I’d lost my edge long before I eventually ‘broke down’ at work. I’d danced a thousand dances on and over it. I was standing on a flat, over-trodden, worn-out landscape with not a mountain in sight. As I looked up that day, the only light for my office was from a single window which framed an unused, concrete wasteland. It was a September morning, the start of term, and I was running a large Drama Department single-handed. As I sat down at my desk after the morning’s deadening briefing I felt numbness spread through my body and deep emptiness within me. It was as if my soul was stirring. A deep longing and breath within me was saying “I’m here, I’m here. Why are you still treating me like this?” I looked at the walls adorned with photographs of past triumphs, bibles of dramatic knowledge and at the names on the lists of the new students coming in. I didn’t want to be there. I knew. The edge had long gone.
Where a man’s edge is located is less important than whether he is actually living his edge in truth, rather than being lazy or deluded. (David Deida – The Way of the Superior Man)
Looking back, I wonder how I spent so long inviting these years into my life. Many of my colleagues just seemed dead men walking. How was I still working with these half-alive people in this completely uninspiring institution?
Fear of change, of not being needed, of being broke, of being lost, of drowning out of the pond, of not knowing. Fear of finding out who I really was.
I shift the paper on my desk. Students mill around outside waiting, excited, nervously expectant. The pendulum of another academic term swings and the ensuing tide carries me unerringly with it.
I did eventually listen to the voice within, but I needed a strong dose of divine intervention. Four years later an Almighty hand finally plucked me from the safety of that pond and lay me like a fish writhing on the concrete, flipping and jumping, strangely tossing and twisting its last.
Only when the struggle for that life was over, could I hear.