I was assaulted yesterday as I was entering a Starbucks. I didn’t get hurt. Not physically. Maybe my feelings were hurt. Maybe I was a bit shocked by what happened. Maybe I was more surprised to feel so much sadness instead of anger.
Standing outside Starbucks waiting for my drink (a new flavor, Tiramisu. Come on. How’m I supposed to resist a drink called Tiramisu?) when a tall, lanky man walked up. He was having some trouble ambulating on one crutch. When he reached the entrance he struggled to get the door open. I went over and grabbed the door handle for him, and started to open it when he took hold of the door and slammed it into my face and screamed "STOP!!!” I was shocked more than hurt. I said, “It's okay, I’m just trying to help, brother”, to which he yelled,
“I don’t need help! Everybody’s trying to HELP me! Everybody STOP helping me! I’m a MAN!!!! Your hear me? I”M A MAN!!!"
He swung the door violently in my direction again, and stormed into the coffee shop yelling his protest to the world.
Samuel Johnson once said, “A man becomes a beast to get rid of the pain of being a man.”
Maybe the pain of being a man is the forgetting of our true nature.
Maybe man becomes a beast to get rid of the pain of unacknowledged greatness. Who among us doesn't yearn to feel our majesty? Perhaps we're designed with a switch inside that calls us to remember the glory from which we came. We're told we're made up of star light and all the stuff of the universe. Have you ever seen a scale showing how teensy tiny our sun is compared to some of the stars in the universe? Yeah. We're made of THAT. But that might be a bit too much for our parents, teachers, clergy, etc. to imagine. Almost every one of us is given a tiny box at birth. "Here. Crawl in and get comfortable." Let's call it the "Man Box".
The Man Box comes with a riddle. You can't get out until you ask for help, but if you ask for help you can't get out.
Shadow magicians can be known by the way their riddles shrink us rather than point to freedom.
It hurts to watch men cling to their suffering because of this idea that to ask for help diminishes one’s manhood. The older I get, the more apparent it is to me that my masculinity deepens with every dropped arrogance. With each new breath a greater awareness of how little I actually have a grip on, how little I can control, how little I actually know, how vulnerable I really am. With each passing year I notice my vision getting dimmer while the fog in the mirror of my reflections is clearing up. It becomes clear how much help I really need, sometimes just to get through the day. How many situations I am as clumsy and unskilled as a 12 year old. That this bud called “Manhood” doesn’t even begin to open until I can say, “I need help”, and then “thank you for helping me.” Until then, I’m leaning on a temperamental, violent crutch called “boyhood”.