What are maps? Maps show us where to go, where we could go, and, sometimes, where we ought not go. In new places, maps help guide us and keep us on the right path, or get us back to it when we get lost. Many people rely on GPS now, but I can’t think of a better analogy than a map for that guidance to the mature masculine, and thankfully, unlike explorers of old, we don’t have to create maps for ourselves in our journey to the mature masculine.
In this journey, a map can provide landmarks, letting a male know where he is on his way. Many of these landmarks help to keep us on track, but they also can show danger points to stay away from. Maps fold. They can be put away and ignored if we know (or, sometimes, believe) we’re on the right path. In the same way, we can also unfold the map when we’re lost to get back on track. Maps have been created already; someone before us has blazed the trail and crafted the map for us on our journey. Of course we’re going to stray sometimes, but we are never lost as long as we are willing to consult the map and find those landmarks and locations we need to go through to complete the journey.
Some landmarks that I’ve noted as I continue to think through this map include the village of mentors, the cave of perpetual adolescence, the elder’s bridge, and the land of liminal space. The land of liminal space is the in between area between adolescence and true mature masculinity. Victor Turner discusses liminal space as that time when males have left the comfort zone of what they know and are finding out who they are and how to truly be independent males. This is the region that many college-age males travel, and, sadly, the region that many never find their way out of. In the cave of perpetual adolescence, you find those males who did not separate from their adolescence properly, and are destined to act as children, never realizing their full, mature masculine potential until they do separate and enter the land of liminal space. Of course, the village of mentors provides guides to help us through the land of liminal space. They also sometimes patrol that land to help bring us back on track. Last, but certainly not the final marker in this map, the elder’s bridge is the safe, easy path out of liminal space. Elders, who have already attained the mature masculine, are the only ones who can bring males out of liminal space into that mature masculine. They are the gatekeepers of this final destination and welcomers of all males who attempt the journey.
Because of research on ritual and male rites of passage and development, we know what the map of a male’s journey can look like. We know where the obstacles, pitfalls, and good paths lie and are continually adding to it, even as we experience life. It’s up to us to help young males navigate through the wild to the land of the mature masculine. Each of us, through our own journey, has added to the map. Together, we can create a roadmap for young males and teach them to use it on their way.
To using the maps we’ve developed to help young males reach the land of the mature masculine.