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Category Archives: Tools for the Journey

Tools for the Journey – The Companion

Man cannot walk through life alone. Humans are social beings; we need friends around us. In this, the journey to the mature masculine is no different; it is a journey that should, no, must be taken with friends by one’s side. Here at Navigating the Wild, we call them companions. Why do we need both companions and guides? I’ll answer that question and provide some additional guidance in the following.

Companions stick by your side through the journey. When I think about companions, my mind instantly goes to that diminutive duo of the big screen – Frodo and Sam from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In the beginning of their journey, they had a guide, then two, in Gandalf and Aragorn. You see Aragorn teaching Frodo and Sam how to fight and survive and leading them through the wilderness up until the group of nine had to separate.

It is at that point that we see the true value of a companion. The two hobbits make the trek of their lives together, supporting each other. In true friend-fashion, they have disagreements, but they reconcile with one another and continue on to their final destination. As companions through the journey, they don’t just provide support for each other; they laugh together, encourage each other in the darkest of times, pick one another up, ponder paths with each other, and, ultimately, inspired themselves and others to do and achieve greater things.

The roles that Sam and Frodo played in each other’s lives are the roles a companion plays – supporter, encourager, helper, challenger, and inspirer. Some companions will play only one role; the best one, the one to keep in your life forever, plays all five (and, most likely, some I’m not mentioning; comment and fill me in). In your quest for and evaluation of companions, let the following qualities guide you:

  • Trust – Do you trust this person? Will they share your secrets or give you bad advice? Trust should be the bedrock of a relationship, especially when you are going through the trials and navigating the unknown territory of masculinity.
  • Accountability – Will this person hold you accountable? There are so many danger areas and ways we can slip off the path or get sidetracked or lost in our development as men that we must have someone to hold us accountable. In like fashion, we must also be able and willing to hold them accountable. Remember that although this is a shared journey, you may know one leg of the trip, but they know others. If you’re not willing to hold them accountable, or they cannot do it for you, one of you may wind up being lost or delayed on the journey.
  • Common goals/beliefs – If you don’t believe the same things, if you don’t want the same things, then your paths may look totally different. What might be acceptable to one person may be completely foreign or repulsive to you. You don’t want a companion who might lead or encourage you in a direction that doesn’t match your goals or beliefs. Thus, clarifying this and seeking out those shared essentials is a must.
  • Perseverance – A good companion never gives up. Have you had a fair-weather friend? One who is there for the fun, but bails when you need him most? Why would you want that person on your journey with you? No, the companion you want is the one who toughs things out, who is willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness, and who seeks to overcome life’s challenges. This same perseverance is shown through a desire for growth, as we shall see next.
  • Growth – Ideally, you and your companion will begin the journey together at roughly the same level. You don’t want to have to pull him along with you or feel like a burden to him as you navigate life’s trials. But, while you might begin at the same level, you also want to grow. Many a male has been held back and kept from maturing because the friends he keeps don’t want to move from their boyish lives. You must seek out companions who desire to grow and mature as well. With them, when trials come, they won’t flee but, rather, will see it as a chance to grow.
I haven’t said much about gender for companions, but I believe that many of the trials a male will face are best shared with other males. Trials and issues shared are often of a kind that only other males can understand. Additionally, the level of intimacy a male can develop with his companion is one that, with a woman, is, in my view, only suited for marriage. Lastly, if we are to live in harmony with other men, we must know how to relate to and love them.

If we walk through life without a companion and merely rely on guides, we rob ourselves of the self-discovery we gain through experience and overcoming life. A guide has already lived what we’re going through; a companion lives it with us. While the guide’s foreknowledge is important, our experience and growth as men and the support we receive from companions during it is essential. We have to reach out, reach over, and find a companion or companions who will live life with us and join us in the journey.

To finding companions to support, encourage, help, challenge, and inspire us on our journey to the mature masculine,

MD

For further reading, I highly suggest the following:

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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Tools for the Journey – The Guide

As we continue to look at the tools needed for the journey to the mature masculine, we have to also consider people who will help us along the way. This week, we will explore possibly the most important person, outside of parents, in the journey: the guide.

The guide is a mentor, a person who has been there before us and offers advice, assistance, and counsel as we experience similar trials to what he experienced in his journey. The journey before males is generally taken on as a solo adventure, but this is the opposite of what should occur. Robert Bly, writing in “Iron John”, tells us that “Ancient societies believed that a boy becomes a man only through ritual and effort – only through the ‘active intervention of the older men’.” Older men serve as our guide, as our helpers and mentors as we attempt to navigate through the wild to the mature masculine. Our guides must be elders.

What is an elder?

An elder is not defined by age, but rather by experience and consistent demonstration of the qualities of the mature masculine. I outlined these earlier, but they bear repeating with a short explanation:
  • Responsibility – not just for yourself but for others around you. Initially, you must own your life and choices; the more you mature, the more you also take responsibility to care for those around you.
  • Respect – this is about treating others with fairness and honoring them and their viewpoints. Additionally, you gain respect for yourself, decreasing the harmful choices you make.
  • Reverence – ultimately, reverence implies a belief in something greater than you and having respect for it. Even well into the 20th century, men were defined by their attendance and service in church. Now, in our more modern era, I focus on reverence as being a broader idea, with the focus more on humility in recognizing that the world does not revolve around you.
  • Reach – the mature masculine is not something for settlers. The mature man never settles and is always looking for a way to improve himself, his relationships, things under his responsibility. This is called reach.
Why an elder?

I presented on this topic at a conference recently and received the question above. Why do we need elders to help in this journey? If the comment above by Robert Bly seems like it only applies to ancient societies, think again. We are in as much need of guidance from elders in this present time as we were in ancient times, possibly in even more need. With the decline in parenting presence and the presence of so many mixed messages about what it means to be a man, an elder points the way and serves as an example as we seek after the mature masculine.

Additionally, elders help with our self-discovery and image. Therapist Robert Moore, drawing on many years of experience with males who have failed to firmly cross over into the mature masculine, echoes their plight in telling us that “If you’re a young man and you’re not being admired by an older man, you’re being hurt.” Many a young male reaches adulthood without having an elder to admire and lift him up. What happens, then, is he seeks out substitution for those feelings that only the elder can supply, and, when they run dry, he is left seeking again. This is partially the cause of many a mid-life crisis. Elders are necessary to uplift us. I know from my own youth how beneficial to my own development and psyche having an elder who not only reached down to me to help me learn and grow into a man but also saw potential in me. The elder sees the potential you have and pushes you to attain it.

Do you have a guide? Is an elder walking with you, able to give you guidance on how to navigate the journey and to help you out of pitfalls you may have stumbled into? If you do, I’d love to hear the story. If not, look around you for someone who exhibits the marks of the mature masculine. Find that person you admire and get him to guide you.

As we mature, the need for a guide does not go away, but it is replaced by a desire for companionship. A guide may even shift into that role given a long enough relationship. If you have matured, look around for a male who need a guide, just as you had one. Reach down to him. And, as you do, reach over to your guide and maintain that relationship.

To elders and guides, who provide guidance on our journey to mature masculinity, inspire us to reach new levels, and help in times of need,
MD
 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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Tools for the Journey – Map

 

As we continue to look at the life of a male from birth to death as a journey, one with its endpoint, hopefully, in the land of the mature masculine, we can see that there are certain tools that are required or make this journey easier. One that certainly helps is the map. 

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.

MD

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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Tools for the Journey – Compass

The main vision of this site to provide tools for the journey to mature masculinity. The maturation and initiation rites of passage that young men go through really can be seen as steps and markers on his journey to mature masculinity. In thinking about becoming a mature man as a journey, there are several tools a young man needs to make his journey a success. In this and subsequent posts, we will explore some of those tools, including a map, destination, guide, companions, and, this post’s topic, a compass.

The destination gives us a point to aim for, and the map provides an idea of what path to take, but how do you really know if you’re on the right track to that mature masculinity point? One possible measuring tool is the compass.

In this abstract view, the compass serves as both a moral guide and a correcting measure. The compass is an instrument that doesn’t speak, but merely points the way to truth north. In the same way, the compass in this journey points to truth north and helps a man know the right direction to go. Every decision a man may make in his life does one of two things – takes him off the path or guides him further in the right direction. The compass, if calibrated correctly, provides an internal guiding mechanism for the young man as he navigates this journey. It is, in essence, a moral barometer, helping the young man (and ultimately all men) know which paths and decisions are morally correct, and which are not. Properly calibrated, the compass provides timely direction and guidance whenever we glance at it. Thus, our morals and values should always be present when making decisions.

A few things can go wrong when using a compass, all of which can cause problems for the young man on his journey. He can ignore it or forget to use it. This may happen when he believes he knows the way; he might, in which case he will continue on the right path, or he might lose his path in his decision-making. The mature man knows to use his compass frequently, if not all the time, because he knows that his moral center will guide him in the right path.

If the young man does consult his compass, he must also be careful to keep it correctly calibrated. A real compass can be thrown off true north by many things; in the same way, the young man’s compass can be thrown off true north by poor influences who seek to bump or distort the moral beliefs of the young man. This, obviously, will lead to the young man believing he is making a correct decision, when, in reality, he is heading off the path completely.

The compass, then, provides direction for men as they journey. It keeps them on the right path and helps them in their decision-making. A true sign of the mature masculine is that he makes morally responsible decisions. The compass, calibrated and used consistently is the first of many tools a young man can use in his journey to mature masculinity.

To providing men with compasses, calibrated correctly, and helping them use them,

MD

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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