Tag Archives: Manliness

Landscapes of Tears Men Cannot Cry

Have you ever seen a man cry? How often?tears of release

I’ve never seen a man break down in tears. It’s a rare event. I’ve seen young boys crying, but the ability to do this seems to get bashed out of us early on. By the age of twelve or thirteen I’d learnt that crying wasn’t on. It wasn’t what the men around me or the men in films did, what my father did, or what my sporting heroes did.

I saw crying as part of a feminine world. It was something you did. Woman. I grew to believe that women were more emotional than men. Well they must be – they cry more often. Right?

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On reflection I think I learnt not to be interested in the real lives of women and that somehow, in the man’s world I saw, there seemed a kind of code emerging. If I identified with women, or with my feelings too much, that I would pay a kind of societal price for this. I wouldn’t be valued or ‘succeed’ in this man’s world if I empathised with woman’s emotional life.

I’d wanted to come across as tough and manly, so my primary concern was to protect you. This was part of the ‘mask of masculinity’ I adopted and is still my instinct now. I feel a duty to take care of you physically, to ensure you come to no harm, to defend the territory around you. Lauren Jacob’s interesting blog Why Strong, Independent Women Just Want to Be Taken Care of (Sometimes) highlights this. I want to show you I’m steadfast, in for the long haul, will support you if you fall pregnant, and ride with your emotional storms. I am the first line of defence as far as your protection is concerned. I want you to feel safe and secure. You lie in my arms.

And yet…

We are, of course, expected to not just carry the heavy loads, but we’re expected to be the last off the sinking ship. We’re expected to go to war purely because we have a penis. Someone invades your home? The man is the one who’s expected to fight any attackers. The man is always expected to be the first line of defence. We might be the most sensitive beings in existence, but when the chips are down, we’re still expected to “man up”.  DorianHawksmoon – Guardian Blog

I’d learnt about being emotionally strong, stoic even; I’d learnt though, that to risk vulnerability by revealing feelings was ‘weak’. Yes, I do want to feel like a man in that ‘first line of defence’, avoiding the dark alley when walking you home, and also within a traditional masculine protocol – opening doors, buying flowers. These are ways I can show I want to take care of you. But asking for help? Just another weakness. That wasn’t part of the deal I struck with the masculinity I knew.

The first ‘cracks’ appeared after a relationship break up in my early forties. Until then I’d “manned up” surviving disappointment and loss beneath a mask of masculinity I’d been taught and had adopted to protect myself. After the split I was curled on the floor, wrapped in a raw, gut-wrenching struggle of being with feelings that I could no longer suppress – it was animal pain that overtook my body and it wasn’t going away.

The beginnings of tears.

tears of timeless reunion

That year, 2007, I learnt to cry myself to sleep. The first real tears since boyhood. They only came occasionally, but they were as old, unnamed stones being turned at last. It began a journey to a new landscape of the soul; my exterior was beginning to crack, something painfully new began to unfold.

The pain grew.

I was unable to mourn the collapse of ‘my story’. The rules binding the masculinity code I’d grown up with didn’t allow me to. I’d learned that it was weak to ask for help, that exposing my feelings risked ridicule and I’d learned that the rules of engagement in attracting the opposite sex were to be confident, strong and in control of my emotions. Like many boys, I’d learned to become disassociated from many of my feelings from a young age, and now I didn’t know how to express them.

Crying is emotional release, words the heart can’t say.. So when I had a breakdown, after patches of depression, the emotional avalanche that stormed through my body after years of keeping the lid on deeper feelings was a real roller-coaster – yet looking back now seems no surprise. As well as burn-out, it was an explosion of years of pent-up pain, and marked the beginning of a deeper journey for me into katabasis or descent, to the underworld of my hitherto unexpressed grief, loss and longing. A dying to the old self. A re-birth of the soul-path.

Grief is the first sign that we are becoming alive (Steve Biddolph)

Rose-Lynn Fisher’s beautiful personal research into the landscape of her tears struck me recently as I reflect now on the struggle with the kaleidoscope of feelings I began to bring to the surface.

“It’s amazing to me how the patterns of nature seem so similar, regardless of scale,” she says. “You can look at patterns of erosion that are etched into earth over thousands of years, and somehow they look very similar to the branched crystalline patterns of a dried tear that took less than a moment to form.”

Tears basaltears

Gradually, excruciatingly, tears squeezed from my body. These hidden branches of my emotional core, these storage boxes of feelings spanning twenty years. Fisher’s images uncover some of the strange beauty of suffering for me; reminding me of the complexity of the maps of the heart, the loneliness of faithless life and of ongoing matrices which, lying unexpressed, map out an infinite hell on earth, an ongoing misery of being less than fully human.

I revisited what I now understand as ‘major relapses’ twice again within the following two years. Two more journeys to recover Eurydice. Two more visits back to the sleepless, anxiety-ridden, ruminating madness; a completely overpowering blanket where the first few seconds of consciousness after waking are only a prelude to endless days and nights of insanity. Two more dives into the ashes.  Two further opportunities to shed the grief I’d been carrying, the trapped feelings, hurts and disappointments I’d bottled up.

Although the empirical nature of tears is a chemistry of water, proteins, minerals, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, the topography of tears is a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream. This series (of tears) is like an ephemeral atlas.

How many of these delicate tapestries lie unshed in us? These atlases of the soul, these deep, unspoken landscapes of the heart.

Now it is easier. Sometimes tears are daily. There is an inexpressable joy in the aliveness of it all. Most of the compressed pain I stored has moved through my body, each tear a transforming landmark in an opening to a new life.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk planning a rehearsal for a Deep Diving Men Lab theatre project and just feeling the freedom of wetness on my cheeks is enough; tears of love and joy, tears of the impossible made possible, tears of faith, tears of gratitude.

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,

Tears from the depth of some divine despair

Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,

In looking on the happy Autumn-fields.

And thinking of the days that are no more.

(The Princess: Tears, Idle Tears  – Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

 

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Man – You’re not Alone, You’re with the Men

“What’s the point of a men’s group?”

I was asked this question recently in the pub. I used to pour beer down my throat by the way, now I enjoy a pint and it’s enough. It’s much better.

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Ten years ago I never would have dreamed I’d be holding a fortnightly group for men in my home. That would have been too weird. I’d have been one of those weird guys. Back then, I used to seek intimate male company only when I was drunk or getting drunk. That was normal. Yet of course, drunk people really can’t listen or talk very well. It was all deeply, deeply dissatisfying.

Have you thought about how other men could be a mirror for you? How another man could teach you about yourself? What would it be like to be clear in your direction and purpose, to strengthen your integrity, become more trustworthy, strong, consistent, clear and grounded? Wouldn’t you like to know how it feels to be at your edge and be held accountable?

How are you spending your time these days..? Are you living your life? Or is it just passing?

How do you really feel?

Father meets Son

Last week I was privileged to witness one of our group re-connect with his 17-year-old son, who he had invited to come to our meeting, after a period of separateness and difficult communication for them both. It was a beautiful evening. As I sat listening, the gravity and depth of the ‘father wound’ in our society became clearer to me.

We are all wounded by our fathers somehow, all of us.

Many young men growing up within an un-fathered culture reject authority from an early age. The 2012 riots in London are only one example of the dive-bomber culture of violence and unfocused aggression many young men are involved with. Statistics from schools regarding the low achievement of boys compared to girls are undeniable. Some suggest teachers have lower expectations of boys than girls. Our young men are largely schooled and brought up by women (only 15% of primary staff are men) and the older men in their lives appear distant and unreliable.

My experience is that we can help our own sons and young men by sharing our inner lives with them. Young men need to grow up in immediate contact with a reliable and secure man. One who models a healthy sexuality, a sense of inner compass and a grasp on his soul. Perhaps one step towards this for us as men is learning how to be real with other men. It took me a while in my life to feel that being vulnerable with other men was okay. The men in our group challenge me to step up to the mark when I flounder and are transparent with me. They hear me as I am, and I hear them.

Honouring the Child in Me

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Deep in the heart of me, my inner child, is the man waiting to be honoured. If this honouring is absent before any man brings himself to woman it is likely he will remain a ‘boy’ in that relationship. I have found this to be painfully true. Perhaps this thought underpins much of the malaise in our society. Many of us are not meeting our women where they need us.

I am learning that this honouring can only take place among a group of men. It used to take place in the tribal rituals of our ancestors, in the fields and communities of farmers who worked on the land, where skills and trades were passed down from father to son. Boys understood how their fathers actually worked. Where does this take place today? Does it take place at all?

In the tragic and moving story of Eddie the shipyard docker, Arthur Miller identifies in his play Death of a Salesman that all most men require is respect.

‘I want my respect. Didn’t you ever hear of that?’

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Yet Eddie tried to do it alone. He didn’t speak his truth until it was too late. He couldn’t escape being his own island. He got stuck deeper and deeper into his own shed. The ‘respect’ he longed for was an illusion; all his pain and anger welled up over the years. He was looking for his soul.

And he lost it.

Being part of a group of men has taught me that we need each other for real right now; in a space where we can challenge each other safely, be together, and identify with some of the challenges, joys and longings of being a man in today’s world.

No woman can teach us that.

So, it’s not weird touchy-feely stuff. It’s making a commitment to other men to be the strong, authentic and loving man you are. It’s making a commitment to the people around you too, in your life, to ‘man up’ and be one of the men that we all need around us today. It’s standing shoulder to shoulder.

“there is a real sense of aliveness and clarity when men sit together and share”

Make a change. Stop taking it to the women in your life. They don’t need your stuff. Yet don’t keep it festering and rotting within you, like Eddie.

In the conversations I have with men, I frequently hear “I’ve never been this open with another man before.” It’s tough out there. Other men are waiting to shoot us down, waiting for any sign of perceived weakness so they can get one over on us. But my vulnerability is my strength, and now it can be heard. What would it be like to have the real support of other men in your life?

You’re not alone man, you’re with the men.

Relationship Intensive in the Middle East

I look deeply into your eyes. They change, into a beautiful, emerald blue when you’re with me. Swimming and deepening; through them I feel all your love, vulnerability and longing.

I murmur, “You make me feel like a man”.

STARTING A RELATIONSHIP

I’m in Dubai beachon an education: a relationship ‘intensive’ course. My woman doesn’t live in the UK; she’s Brazilian, we’ve known each other for a while and we know some of what’s on the other’s heart – Skype, email – it’s amazing what’s possible nowadays. But until last week we’d spent just two and a half weeks together in 18 months, and only 3 days of that with each other. I’d never seen her place, and now I’m living in it. I’d never seen her wash up, make the bed, do the washing. Hoover. So we are on this sudden two-week ‘relationship intensive’. We’ll both get certificates at the end, no doubt.

MAN AND WOMAN

How did relationships get complicated? Industrialisation didn’t help for us men. We lost touch with what our fathers ‘did’; functional, practical, provider-type work became ‘business’ and communities were destroyed as we moved away from the land after thousands of years of working it. We men no longer look at nature’s face. God’s creation got high-rise. A drastic change. Defining ourselves as men very quickly became how ‘successful’ we could be, signified by how much money we made. Thus began the material ladder to a modern UK of spiritual desolation.

On day 2 of the intensive I was reminded, more than ever, that

IT’S ABOUT POLARITIESpassionate_love_mlu15-v

“Come to bed honey”. Shifting in the bed, you open in all your longing, and I give you my energy, strong, holding you, opening us both.

I need a clearly defined role. In fact, in the home, I need my woman to create a clear masculine pathway for me. I don’t want her to take out the rubbish, lift the boxes, fix the electrics. I’m a man. We’re practical creatures and can quickly get things done in an uncomplicated way. Sure, there are places to overlap, but unless our experience clearly defines our roles, it’ll get blurry. Despite all her circling and complications, she wants a man to step in, firmly, and sort out the problem. She may not say she does, but she does. She may resist if I move to penetrate her bubble, but my presence can only blossom her into deeper love if she can yield to my gentle yet forcing energy.

His entrance into your body is deep, persistent, creative, unyielding. His strong hands hold your wrists, his belly presses down into yours, his gentle force enters you again and again, opening places you have never felt to open. (David Deida)

It doesn’t matter what our roles are…  as long as the polemic between is clear. And if our polemic is clear, we’ll have an active dynamic, and it’ll be fun and creative in the bedroom. It’s a dance. And this is our foundation.

LEARNING HOW TO FEEL AGAIN

Intensive Day 3. Bright sunshine. You leave for work, dressed in a smart black dress, high heels. Sexy and professional. “See you later baby”. Getting home later you’re tired, you’ve been in your masculine energy, working with us guys all day. And I’m here.. moving things around.. in your place…

You are now successful in the workplace and manage the home. This makes it difficult for us men. And, we are less able to communicate emotionally about these changes to our role. We didn’t have an equivalent of your intimate mother-daughter dynamic when we were young. We are nearly always alone with our sex, misunderstood, then channeled into unfulfilling work or left behind in the education rat-race. This builds up over the years; various addictions, depression and pornography all raise ugly heads, closing our hearts and resigning us to live less fully than we were designed for. Jesus knew a lot about living fully, a man on the edge of his purpose

I come to give life—not just ordinary existence, but life in fullness, abundance, and prosperity. (3 John 2)

Many of us are not ready to receive and surrender to deep spiritual transformation, we walk around with our heads full of baggage and hearts closed, hoping one day to meet you guys. We seek an illusion of physical relationship before we are even aware that we are longing to begin our spiritual journey. We forget, or are simply not taught, that intimacy is a divine gift and love an eternal presence. My experience was, before asking that spirit of abundance to be in relationship with me, that I had to learn how to really feel and open my heart. This allowed me, for the first time, to kneel before God in humility. My Creator longs to be intimate with me. That’s why Jesus is it. What greater love is there? What greater gift?

AN UNSPOKEN MASCULINE CODE

Most of us that grow up with fathers have little idea how he feels.

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He never tells us, so we learn an unspoken code of masculinity. The way we’re supposed to do things. So it’s ‘cool’ to hide feelings. And growing up with Mum creates a negative view of men from the word go – why isn’t he here? Why are men so absent?

So. We don’t ‘do’ feelings very well, we’re doing much worse at school than you and those beautiful mothers among you are bringing us up, largely alone. So in your eyes, dear woman, I become the shady hunter, the hunter-outsider, not guarding his territory and protecting you, but outcast, someone to be feared. And if I’ve proved unreliable before and there’s a fence around your heart, why would you trust me?

WHY MASTURBATE WITHOUT A WOMAN?

 “Jesus didn’t masterbate” proclaims the home-grown Christian Theology lecturer. He’s playing to a home crowd, fully in his flow. It’s a conference a few months ago, and I’m questioning. “I bet he did when he was 14” I retort. His jaw dropped.

I’m politely warned at the tea-break for ‘interrupting’.

But something still shifted in me. How did we manage before computers and magazines? We went to whorehouses. Is that it? Is it because we are alone; outside of community, outside of relationship? What kind of man wanks with porn when he has a girlfriend?

And you’re urging me, 6000 miles away, to wait for you, lying in your knickers all Skyped-up on your bed. Something had changed. I wanted to give something different, I wanted to finally shed my adolescent wanking hangover. Finally.

Back in Dubai on intensive day 4 and I watch us guys walking along the beach; many are simply lazy predators with the awareness of a reversing, school-ferrying four by four. Such is the overriding pulling power of our perverted media machine. I imagine many have never really ‘been’ with a woman. Not really. We’re at home wanking in front of porn. This can be quite healthy for adolescents (er.. without the porn right?) But for us men..?

Why waste the power you could use with a woman on a computer screen? …What do you think you’ll want when you go to bed with a woman? If we get addicted to self-pleasure, just focusing on our sensations, that is what we will continue doing in front of a naked woman. (Gustavo Gitti – The New Generation of Spoiled Men)

HarrisonFord_WhatLiesBeneath

Porn distorted my sex-life for years. Badly. It was so easy to find an excuse. Erotic love? Yes, but it’s almost impossible not to slip. If my first intimate experience of sex is gazing at the navel of a naked 19 year old girl? What are we doing? And you girls that have a choice – what are you doing here?

There’s such a lot to live up to, this idea of being a man. Our flimsy egos massaged by our bulging pectorals, it’s all about exteriors; it’s ‘looking after yourself’ on a nose dive to a relationship hell.

ARE WOMEN BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE?

We want equality in the workplace as much as you, but are some of you barking up the right tree? How are you measuring your new success – isn’t this just the same material trap that we’ve been squeezed into? Why would you want that? And how can you expect your man to be this dream guy, if you are treading on all his societal toes with no awareness… ‘But he’s a bastard’ – I hear you say. But you women with the awareness, you’re ahead in this, we’re just trying to catch up. But please, don’t let your son hear you. Don’t turn him against me. Don’t contribute to the cycle.

WOULD ANY MAN CHOOSE TO BE A HOUSE HUSBAND?article-0-039162FD000005DC-609_468x561

Day 5, still the relentless desert sun, and I’m at home, in your place. Not a husband, a boyfriend now, yet I’m getting a taste of ‘being at home’ while you ‘go to work’. Why would any man choose this? Isn’t it just the result of a distorted masculine/feminine pathway? We are being squeezed, inwards, into our own fear, and cannot offer you a clear masculine presence. What man would choose willingly to take the female role here? He’ll only choose it if there is no other choice – is there any evidence to show the father is the most important parent during the first five years? It’s kicking Mother Nature in the metaphysical balls. No man’s purpose is to stay at home.

I’m on the intensive because I want to create something long-term. To make a home together, maybe a family. We want to commit, yet we’re in different countries. My good Latino friend told me that Latin women make great life partners. Well, the jury is out! But what does this really mean?

‘If you want a relationship with a Brazilian girl, you must be aware of the fact that she will love and care for you unconditionally – as long as you remain masculine.’ (Colt Williams – How to Have Sex with Brazilian Women)

I’m sure this is not specific only to you ‘Latinas’, but, we’re cultural creatures. I want to remain in my masculine and we both have our cultural baggage. You are different to the European women I know. There are different expectations of me, of us, in your culture. So where are we going to meet? Can we both move in this dance?

I NEED TO FEEL LIKE A MAN

You need me to feel like a man, so you can feel like a woman. You want me to take you, to claim you. You desire it in your deepest core.

And if we keep failing to show up as men, will we fall into a soon-to-be-dominated female society, unclear about who is who, creating more girl-friendly examination systems, while passing laws allowing all types of mixed partner and sex coupling scenarios to sit alongside this gender confusion? We are trying to take responsibility, some of us, but it’s tough out here.

You are still an underclass in most of the world; cycles of historical and contemporary societal abuse weigh heavily

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Close to 60 million school-age girls are still not enrolled in schools, yet sexism seems overdramatised in some western nations and societies, given the opportunities created for women by anti-sexism legislation in the West. (Blogpost from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

yet let’s forget immigration laws, minimum wage, NHS, recessions and even the environment for a bit. We, the British man, are a forgotten underclass, right here, now. And if we’re all not careful, we can forget 5-1 man/woman ratios on singles holidays, they’ll be so very few of us ready, to really meet you.

.. a male underclass of feckless, unqualified and unemployable men who will resort to criminality, drugs and mental illness by their thousand. The dominant female gender will dispense with traditional coupling and resort to AI for procreation as there won’t be enough respectable, employed and reliable male partners out there for even 10% of women. (Devondickie from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

sexy_men_on_the_beach_1600x1200_zps38086412If the world is still (sadly) full of us making the decisions, then both of us, more than ever, need to work to effect change with them. The world desperately needs a Madonna; a new breed of accountable and reliable male role model to guide our leaders and young men through.

Yet with education systems designed for girls to succeed more than boys, a serious lack of male teacher modelling, and mothers hoping their sons grow up as men, are we blindly falling into a tunnel of societal feminisation?

So, it’s now day 8 and yes, we’re still joking about this crazy crash course. It’s a beautiful day, the Dubai racetrack hums outside, and you’re making me feel like a man. It must be going OK. Every day now I feel you slowly open, and in my heart I feel God’s gift of your love-offering to the world start to dance. And we smile.

Now, where’s that hoover?

_________________________________________________________________________

Deida, David: Dear Lover: A woman’s guide to men, sex, and  love’s deepest bliss

What I needed from my Dad

When I was 14 what mattered to me more than anything?

What mattered was having my father there. What mattered were the words he spoke to me. What mattered was his presence. What mattered was the rite of passage he offered me from his world – to play rugby like the men.

Much of my childhood I watched my Dad play. Every Saturday we’d go to Lazards Sports ground and I played with the men, often for hours and hours. After the game, beyond dusk, the cheap florescent bar lights illuminating the muddy grass, one of the guys would usually hang out and play with me, show me how to hold the ball, pass and kick. I’d learn special things my Dad hadn’t taught me. The men’s world mattered. I loved being part of it.

It’s a wet, windy day out on the school playing field. It’s cold. We’re playing a strong opposition. They were usually better than us – the other teams. Our record defeat was 0-78. Dads litter the touchline. I’m playing number 8 this day. (This is the guy that sticks his head in the back of the scrum, mauls into other guys when he picks the ball up from the back of the scrum, and tackles everyone) Now I wasn’t big, but I was brave, and I’d tackle anyone. It was a matter of honour. I’d do anything to prevent a guy getting past me. Especially when my father was watching.

What mattered most was hitting the earth, body and body, wound on wound. What mattered was that they didn’t score.

When I played full back (that’s the guy right at the back of the team wearing 15) I used to tackle a cascade of boys who broke through. I was the last line of defence. And even though I was small I’d hit these guys, heroically saving many points. (No team ever reached 100 against us). I loved playing the hero; when all else was lost I’d save the day, do the very best I could for the team.

I was learning that I had what it takes.

So, I’m 16, a few years older and it’s cold. It hurts when you mis-tackle someone. You get your body in the wrong position technically and if the guy’s bigger than you, which virtually all of them were, it really hurts.

So I’m at the back of the scrum and we’re under pressure. One of their team picks up the ball in the loose and for a split second there’s an option. I know it’s going to hurt. I’m out of position and this boy is 3-4 stone heavier than me. But he’s my man. And as he charges through like a young bull, I hit him and down we go.

The earth, the blood.. bodies.. contact.

There’s no sound from the touchline. There were a lot of players around us. Did Dad see? That was the best tackle I’d ever done. Did he see it?

The game goes on and I quickly recover from the hit.

Just a word, I need just a word.

The game ends. Somehow the score’s irrelevant. The players clap each other and mill off, some to the changing rooms, to each other or the touchline.

I need to hear his voice.

I loiter around, not asking but needing.

“That was a great tackle on their number 8.”

My heart shifts a beat and I’m welling up with an enormous feeling of pride, unity and belonging. He said the right thing, but not only that. He felt  it. He’s been there, in the wild country of the sports field, he knows exactly how I feel. He noticed me in my stepping up. This joy I experienced in my father watching and tending to me was second to none.

I wonder now what type of masculinity I was subscribing to when I stepped up to the mark. What exactly was I ‘manning up’ into?

When I was younger I cried. Or was it the feeling of longing to cry? I’d get tackled and winded, and everyone used to want to hit me hard as I was the teacher’s son. Dad was reffing. I remember one time particularly, I’m 10 years old and it’s a house 7-a-side rugby game, so for a 10-year-old it’s basically a cup final. I’m playing scrum half, the pivotal position in the short game, and I get tackled hard by a friend and go down wheezing.

I don’t want to cry.

boy cryingCrying’s not what men do.

And I can feel my father with me, struggling to be with my withheld tears as well as playing his role as referee and teacher. It seems to go on for ages. I’m embarressed in front of the other boys. Somehow a boyhood wound is shaped.

Is it impossible? To develop as a boy with direction, certainty and purpose, to stand ground when others around are failing, is it possible to become this fully embodied masculine man and CRY playing sport?

Can the boy become the king without a wound? Wounding is important to be with and overcome. And what kind of space for wounding is the modern sports field? It’s one of the few spaces for men to go. How is it boundaried and held?

Last night I saw the fantastic film The Hunter. If you want to understand men a little better go and watch this. It’s terse, direct, staccato, beautifully shot and WILD. During the fantastic climax, where the Daniel Dafoe character, Martin, confronts the essence of his own beautiful, untamed wildness, more of those lost boyhood tears stream down my face, unashamed, cleansing and pure.