The fourth metaphor to look into during my journey to awaken my sacred masculine and find the hidden spirituality of men is the Hunter Gatherer. Writing about this metaphor was tough for me because I didn't think I had anything to write. These personal journeys centered around men's studies never go like that. There is always something that comes up. I had to completely reread the chapter and be conscious of any time I read a section and have no idea what I read. Sometimes this happens because I'm distracted, but it also happens when I'm confronted by what it says. Sometimes I'm just still pondering a previous topic and wasn't yet ready to take in new information. There is a ton to cover in this section now, so the format is different than other articles.
The Hunter Gatherer
As far as we can determine, almost all of human existence consists of humans being hunter gatherers. Only recently, historically speaking, have we changed to farming for sustenance. Even more recent is how much of our lives hide the fact that farming goes on at all. We've move from being hunters and gatherers who must search to our food; to farmers, who are still connected to where our food comes from; to now having no idea where our food even comes from. The hunter gatherer metaphor isn't just about food though, it is about cultural difference. While it is easy to see what we have gained, there is quite a bit that we have lost.
Joy & Shame
The power of ancient tribal culture can be summed up in 2 words - joy and shame. These two things represent both, what we have lost and what we (unconsciously) carry with us from our cultural past. Both are hard wired into our masculine beings and acknowledgement of this fact is the path to understanding. By acknowledging that shame, right or wrong, guides our lives powerfully and that enjoying ancient rituals (sometimes in new ways) is worthwhile we can make some powerful choices about who we will be. [ad#Google Adsense] Ancient rituals which center around drums, dancing and storytelling are quite easily pushed aside in civilized society. Drums are loud and annoy people, dancing makes you look like an idiot and stories need to be chopped down into bite size pieces because no one has the time to pay attention anymore. Drums are representative of rhythm. The first sound we hear is the sound of our mothers' heart, but then the noise of the world drowns out that beat. The noise of the world hasn't always been there and rhythm is our way of connecting with nature. We do this through music we love, through music we make and if we listen closely we might even hear the rhythms of life itself. Dancing is an extension of this connection. Using rhythm & dance we are connecting our cosmic bodies with our green man and mother earth. Ancient rituals of rhythm and dance were used, not only to create this connection but to tell stories. Stories told in this way were used to pass on generational wisdom before the invention of writing.
The joy of listening is a lost art. My favorite movie - Strictly Ballroom - has a line, "Listen to the rhythm, don't be scared" that always hits home for me. This movie is especially about civilized dancing limiting a person's self expression - I highly recommend it. Listening to the world and people around us is probably the most powerful way for us to move forward as a species. How can we experience joy, though, if we feel shameful of this enjoyment?
Shame, I think that word pretty much wraps up the entirety being male. How constantly it seems to come up for me and as I read my mens' studies books, how often it comes up for others as well. Is it hard wired from our ancient heritage? In hunter gatherer societies when someone broke the laws of the tribe they weren't imprisoned, they were cast out. Without the protection and camaraderie of your fellow tribesmen life would be exceedingly tough, if you survived at all. This is how shame has become hard wired in our present day selves.
Shame is the experience of not belonging, secondary shame is the feeling of not belonging. In our present day culture it is so easy to evoke these feeling but we must be aware of the distinction between feeling and experiencing. It is minor, but it makes a big difference that will be clear as we discuss the shadow energies that show up with hunter gatherer energy in today's world. The distinction also shows up positive ways as well. One obvious, yet not very prevalent, example is in modern day spiritual warriors.
"...is it not true that authentic prophets risk shame? They too risk being expelled from the community, literally or figuratively..."
Hunter Gatherers today
All of this theory is great but how does it affect modern man? Where does it show up powerfully? What are the dangers to look out for? Hard wired tendencies can be used against us if we aren't paying attention. So I'm going to share my thoughts on the breakdowns from the book.
The Hunt for a Mate
The hunt for a mate is ingrained in us very clearly. Take a look yourself, it is not hard to see. The planning, the searching, the tactics, the stories of the one that got away - its all there. It is more than just the animalistic side of hunting though. There is also the creativity and observation of the hunt that comes into play. We must pay attention to our prospective mates in order to learn what works and what doesn't. Our creativity comes out in all the new things we try and ultimately in the person we create ourselves as to woo the other.
the lover is not content with superficial knowledge of the beloved, but strives for intimate discovery and even entering into the beloved -Thomas Aquinas
There is a whole metaphor on sexuality and a whole section, which I have yet to read, on sacred marriages of the masculine and feminine so we will most likely touch on this in later posts. [ad#Google Adsense]
The Quest for Scientific Understanding and Truth
Science is an art. It is inexact and precise at the same time. Science is a journey with no end, only markers along the way. This is a surprisingly spiritual focal point of modern hunter gatherer energy. That is, if we approach it as such. Science is about understanding and scientists are constantly hunting for better understanding the truths of our universe. They gather evidence of these truths through experimentation. What are we using science for? Are we solving the great mysteries and great problems of our time with science? Science allows us the ability, if we let it, to connect with father sky and our green man. It also has the ability for us to connect with the shadow energies that go along with many of these powerful metaphors. How will we, as men, use this hunting and gathering tool?
Journalism: The Hunt for the True Story
All I could think about when I read this section was (The Daily Show with) Jon Stewart. His constant gripe is with how the news is currently being covered. In many cases it isn't being covered anymore, it is being created through hype. Before news organizations realized they could make money on their news programs it was more about hunting the story to let people know what was happening. There are still people hunting the true story out there. The internet has given reporters of all levels the ability to distribute news to the masses. You do have to wade through the entertainment and opinion news that is so easy to get caught up in, but it is there. The biggest thing we can do when we listen to, watch or read the news is separate what happened from any story about what happened. The story always gets in the way of real news, but that story does bring in watchers, readers, listeners and that sells ad time/space. Please, even after you find a news source you trust, don't trust it blindly.
The Search for Spiritual Truth
The journey I am on and, if you read this far, you might be on too - is a search for spiritual truth. A friend of mine has an great quote on her facebook profile where it asks about her religious views:
gave up religion for spirituality
For me I've gone back and forth. I've looked at religions and many times I've been downright atheistic in my beliefs. Now I am sure of one thing - I don't know and there is no way I can for sure. That is why I seek what spiritual truths I can find from where ever I find them. I am a qualified skeptic about dogmatic religion and the spiritual world I sometimes find sort of hokey - but I am looking. I am looking, it is - at times - scary and that's okay. It takes something to be vulnerable in a spiritual sense.
Gathering Herbs, Seeking Cures
In many ways this is an extension of the quest for scientific understanding - but it is also something more. Many discussions with my wife lately have been about her health and how western medicine isn't working for her. Sure, it has been helpful in many ways but in some it just misses the mark. Seeking cures is more than treating symptoms. In fact it is something entirely different. Western medicine attempts to break diseases down into small parts and affect it that way. This works on certain things, but misses the mark on others. Alternative medicine, often eastern medicine approaches healing differently. Looking at the body as a whole instead of just a sum of parts. That is why it is called holistic medicine. The cures we seek, though are not down one path or the other. We must look down both paths and possibly more to find the cures we seek. We must strive to understand the body even more to understand how to heal it. Our bodies are amazing machines, it's best not to underestimate them.
Putting Bread on the Table: Hunting for Work
I feel this one. Ever since my wife quit her paying job to start homeschooling our kids I have felt it. My wife is great with managing our money, which also has me feel it because I'm under no illusions that we have any more than we actually do. This is the modern form of hunter gatherer energy in its purest form. In tribal cultures you choices were given by how to provide for your family. However it touched on more in this section. In ancient tribal cultures ( and some modern tribal cultures ) a family you provided for wasn't nuclear it was extended. How do my daily efforts provide for my community? And why do I spend so much time away from my family/community working to provide for them? These questions may not have exact answers but they can be part of a journey towards fulfilling work. I remember when Ralph Nader was running for president in 2008 and he was looking for people to work on his campaign ( both paid and volunteers ) he talked about being able to take your conscience with you to work. I think that's important, lest we drain our spiritual energy.
Going deeper though, if we create societies where people have to take jobs that drain their spiritual energy, just to survive, we do them and our communities a disservice. People have a desire to be useful, they want to contribute. First and foremost they want to survive. That is why, if we are privileged to have opportunities others don't, making a difference for the types of jobs people have access to is a very worthy cause. In dire economic times, like the ones we are in now, this is even more important. It is easy to be seduced by corporations that pollute indiscriminately, have unfair labor practices, steal from the tax payers and more when they are promising so many paying jobs. Just remember, entrepreneurs with a stake in the community and a positive approach to running a business can create better, more fulfilling jobs at less spiritual, environmental and economic cost to the community. It's a tough road to walk in times like these, but we'd do much better with a strong foundation than with jobs built on despair.
Hunting, and Listening for, the Muse
I've been a performing artist, perhaps not a great one, for most of my life. The times when I have been most prolific, most successful I have been tapping into my hunter gatherer energies. As a musician, as a wrestler, as a performer in general and most recently as a magician you have to keep looking for inspiration. It is the times when I've stopped looking for inspiration that I have often quit or at the very least hit a lull. Some times you need to fake it 'til you make it. Inspiration isn't coming to you, it is out in the wild to be found.
About 4 years ago I retired from wrestling and shelved my creative performing talents for a while. About a year ago, I decided to get into the world of magic as my new performance outlet. It has been a bumpy ride. Magic isn't easy! Then again, neither is music or wrestling but I did those. I've contemplated shelving this idea but at the same time I forced myself to stay in the world of magic. I am now my magic club's sergeant at arms and I took over for someone who didn't show up to many meetings - this kept me working. Recently I realized my problem, I wasn't performing. I wasn't performing because I'm so used to performing on stage ( or in a ring ) and my magic isn't ready for that. Thanks to some videos and articles that I have been reading lately I realized that a magical performance can be as small as one trick performed for one person. I've been performing more and my excitement is growing. I'm hot on the trail of my muse.
Searching and Learning as an End in Itself
Turning our hunter gatherer energies inward has us hunt for wisdom. How do we gain this wisdom? If any of you have read this far, do you have a degree? If you have a degree are you using it at work? Are you using it in other facets of life? In what ways are you self taught? In what ways have you learned from others, but not in an educational environment? These are important questions to ask because education in western culture has been perverted. Skills used to be taught, not by lectures but by master craftsman passing down their crafts. New skills created by experimentation, failure and perseverance. As universities and colleges sprang up they added to our ability to learn by teaching at a different level. Then public education added even more, giving the people the ability to learn some of the basics in a structured way. At some point we started to rely on these new sources of learning too much. Colleges and Universities became the only way to show you had skill in many more fields than ever before - and for many leaving college skills were not tempered with wisdom that comes from experimentation and failure. As less families had the ability for at least one elder to stay at home and help guide learning, public education became more of a surrogate for their teaching. Many other things have happened and our education system ( at least in the US ) is a shambles. We've begun teaching to tests because they are easier to measure than teaching creativity and problem solving which will help the community as a whole later in life. Parents look at teachers less as partners and more as adversaries. When parents make the ultimate commitment and home school their children society questions their ability at every turn - only because it is different than the norm for today.
What's the answer? First, we need to recognize that wisdom isn't easily tested for on paper. It is better tested for in problem solving and decision making, choices that come up in real life. We also need to remember that children can learn - a lot - given the correct stimulus. They want to learn, it is actually fun. The joy of learning is a lifelong skill that we should encourage. That way, people can learn when they are ready, not remember when they are told to. I'm reminded of a quote that was in the book Seventeen Traditions by Ralph Nader. In it, Ralph comes home from school and his dad asks, "What did you learn in school today? Did you learn how to believe or did you learn how to think?". What's the difference? That distinction is the difference between education and wisdom.
Sports: Hunter-Gatherers At Play
This should be pure hunter gatherer energy, but it is so perverted. Some sports are even the act of hunting or fishing and the energy is most often the shadow form, not the true form of of this masculine energy. Sports have been perverted because competition has become more about winning then the competition itself. I've had many arguments with my wife that revolve around this fact. How can we raise 2 boys the way we want and involve them in competitive sports. Due to many of the positive experiences I have had and the spiritual journeys I have been on as an adult I see a possibility. Competition should not be about winning but should involve the whole hearted attempt to win within the confines of the rules/game. If all participants are doing their best and pushing themselves toward the goal of winning without the requirement to win then everybody gains from the experience. Skills increase, teams get more cohesive and once the competition is over you can honor your opponent. In actual hunting and fishing this honoring of your opponent is seen in many native american traditions of thanking the animal's spirit. For other sports, actually thanking the person is a good start.
There is always the shadow though. There is always the person whose identity is so wrapped up in winning that to lose is the ultimate blow to their ego. How do we raise young men to compete with these people and still get a positive experience from it? They will still reap the benefits of being pushed to their limits in order to win. What about cheating to win? When winning is more important than the sport itself what does it cost us as a culture? Keep this in mind when we discuss the hunter gatherer energy in business ( and really all areas ).
This rather large section of this chapter also discussed the nature of the spectator in modern sports. In some ways spectators hearken back to traditional costumes and dance of tribal hunter gatherer society. It is one safe way men get to enjoy costumes, dance and storytelling ( and don't I know as a wrestler :) ). The shadow energy of spectators is when people only consume sports ( and entertainment ) without creating or being a part of sport themselves. Modern culture makes it easy to watch sports all day and play coach from your couch. This energy feeds the other shadow energy that needs to win at any cost. Keep in mind, hunter gatherers did so to provide for their tribal community and were recognized for what they provided. What are we recognizing them our athletes for and what are they providing us?
The Role of the Automobile
I felt that this section really covered a specific issue that is covered by many of the others quite well. While it makes some good points, I think our love of the automobile has been taught to us by some pretty expensive commercials.
Hunting and Hiking
Hunting should be pure, but modern hunting rarely resembles ancient hunting in any way. Hunters find most of their food at the store and if they don't succeed in hunting it doesn't keep them from eating. Technology favors the hunter nowadays. I'm not going to say that hunting still isn't dangerous or difficult but things have gotten much easier from the days of hunter gathering tribes. For some though, hunting isn't about the kill. For some hunting and fishing are excuses for getting closer to nature in an acceptable activity. How many people do you know who spend whole days fishing, don't catch anything and come home happier than before. That is why the author connected hunting with hiking. Hiking is another way that one can get closer to nature, enjoy solitude or camaraderie as they choose and enjoy the sounds, smells, sights and more of the world around them.
In the modern world business is more clearly hunter gatherer energy than sports and hunting combined ( technically they are anyway ). These people use the energy and skills of a hunter gatherer to find customers, partners, advertisers and they do make an impact in their community. Because of this we recognize them for what they provide the community. We must ask if it is alway justified. In shadow energy of business that is pure greed they have learned to use our hunter gatherer instincts against us - or rather for themselves. The word need no longer means necessity and instead means it will give you status in the community and thus is collapsed with want. It is not to say that the hunt for stuff we want does not have its place, but we must make sure it is not just an addiction to stuff. [ad#Google Adsense]
Addiction shows off the pure form of hunter gatherer shadow energy. We have already discussed in sports how some people become addicted to winning. But addiction is almost reverse hunter gatherer energy. The addicted are actually hunted by their addictions. Try as they might they must constantly be on guard against their addiction which always seems to find them. Consider a drug addict who both hides their addiction ( at least at first ) and gets their fix despite the odds. Are they the hunter or the prey and who is the victor. Luckily, any addictions I might have both don't seem very strong or very destructive - but that doesn't give me much experience to write from. Also, I haven't had to deal with addictions from the people in my life so that is a bonus as well.
Hunters For Justice: Spiritual Warriors
I've made a couple references to Ralph Nader in this post. From my vantage point and during my lifetime he is a true hunter for justice. The quote from earlier about shame and spiritual warriors, "...is it not true that authentic prophets risk shame? They too risk being expelled from the community, literally or figuratively..." made me think of him the first and subsequent times I read it. Others might see Gandhi, Jesus, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. They were all mentioned in the book and rightly so. These people weren't looking to belong to the world as it was, they already belonged to the world as it should be. In that space they felt no shame in being who they had to be to make people look at the injustices around them.
Another important distinction is the distinction between a warrior and a soldier. That distinction will be made clearer as I discuss the next metaphor which is all about spiritual warriors. Warriors go into battle, while soldiers are sent. Warriors fight because they love and soldiers fight because they are told to. How can we raise more spiritual warriors? Perhaps this will become clear during the discussion of the next metaphor.
In rereading this metaphor and ensuring comprehension I have gained quite a bit from this metaphor. I gained solid wisdom to speak on topics I may have felt timid to talk about before. I've gained, most likely, my longest blog post to date. I'm not sure that's a good thing but I hope many people can glean some wisdom from the words I have written here. It is my hope that by writing as much as I have and asking as many questions as I have along the way I will get more input from others on the same journey as I.
If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading. I can be long winded at times.