Posted in:   Path Basics

The Dream of the Good Man: Embracing a Positive Masculinity

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I dream of being with a woman elder who teaches me about a clan of good men with special spiritual energy that have been with humanity throughout our history. Then the dream shifts. I’m waiting on a street corner on my island home for a man to pick me up and give me a ride. I intuitively know that he’s part of this clan, a teacher and holder of this special energy. The car pulls up. He smiles and greets me. I get in the car and then the dream ends.

In my waking-world life, I know this man, and he is indeed of this special clan of good men whose presence and deeds can open hearts, heal souls and change our world. He’s a poet, teacher and Zen practitioner — a brilliant yet humble man, with gentle, penetrating eyes that seem to take in our world of beauty and sorrow with a deep love, wisdom and crinkle of humor.

There are such good men among us. They are the poets, writers, teachers, leaders, wise men and healers in our midst who kneel in reverence before the miracle that is life, and give over their hearts and hands in service of the very best of our human society: love, compassion, justice and beauty.

Oddly, the good man isn’t our cultural ideal of the masculine. Instead this ideal venerates “real men” who emulate a rugged self-determinism founded on domination and personal gain. In the battle for supremacy in our shared social order, real men fight their way to the top of the pile, reaping the rewards of wealth, power and adulation, indifferent to the price others pay for their success. Our modern political, social and economic systems are founded on this masculine ideal of dominion, will to power, and unfettered self-interest and greed.

It can be hard to recognize the good men among us given the long shadow of our cultural, real-men ethos. Many of us have experienced harm at the hands of an abusive man, or because of the misogynist roots and toxic male and female stereotypes that permeate our social order. Others may have a strong political or intellectual viewpoint that understands the role that men and patriarchal institutions have played in the worst of our human history and current malaise.

Yet there are good men in our midst, with big hearts and spirits, gifting their best in service of others and our world.  And these men, with their positive masculine traits, are desperately needed as partners, allies and role models in the mending and renewing of our human society.

When I shared my good-man dream with my poet neighbor who appeared as the good man in my dream, he replied, “Yes, there are such men without a doubt. I’m glad you know, Karen. That, in itself, is worth all the dreams.”

To know the good men among us — to open our hearts and minds to their presence and offerings — is a powerful counterbalance and antidote to the clamor of the crazy, crazy of real-men masculinity, played out in the constant bad newsfeed of political mayhem, environmental devastation, economic crisis, income disparity and war.

Here is a simple exercise for claiming this powerful, healing good-man medicine in your own life.

Start by turning your attention to the good men in the public sphere, living and historic. Who are your heroes: men you admire for their good nature and good deeds? What gifts do they give to the world through their beliefs, writings, teachings and actions? What kind of positive change do they bring about? What impact do they have on the hearts and souls of others? How do they make the world a better place? Consider the common qualities that you admire in these men.

Carry these good men with you in your heart and thoughts for a day. Imagine them as your companions as you go about your day-to-day life. Try to see the world through their goodness and best qualities. Notice these qualities in yourself and in others. Let your experiences widen your heart and change you.

Then bring your awareness closer to home, to the good men in your family, community and workplace that more directly impact and influence your life. With these more intimate connections, remember that no person can be all good, and that you may have a hard time seeing those near to you as fitting the good-man ideal because of some imperfection or inconsistency in their personality. Don’t look for perfection. Instead, consider the men in your life who have a good heart, give of themselves to others, and have a positive impact on the world around them.

Again, carry these good men with you in your heart and thoughts for a day, seeing the world through their goodness and best qualities. Notice that the good-man ideal applies to everyday men in everyday circumstances, and that the men in your life have positive, life-affirming traits outside of our cultural, masculine stereotypes.

Choose a simple way to honor the good men in your personal life and the greater world. You could tell one of these good men how much you appreciate them, share a positive article about men on social media, or better still, decide to change something about yourself in alignment with the good-man ideal, knowing that a positive masculinity is part of our human nature, available to all of us regardless of our biological gender or gender identity.

Our world desperately needs to remember the good men in our midst. Each of us can do this crucial work in our own lives, families and communities. We can witness, name and honor these men. We can let others know of their presence and deeds, and emulate the best of their qualities in our own life. In doing these things, we can step outside of the culturally imposed masculine, and begin to dismantle and replace its restrictive, toxic parameters with the bigness of being, heart and soul that is the true, best essence of men and masculinity.

These things shake us awake from our disquieted acquiescence to the real-man cultural ideal. We widen our gaze to the good men and their positive masculinity. We remember: that our hands and our hearts are made for service to ourselves, each other and our Earth home; that good deeds, founded in love, compassion, justice and beauty, are the true markers of the best of our humanity; and that these life-affirming choices and actions are not just the responsibility of the good men of our world, but of each and every one of us.  Together we can claim the dream of the good man as our new cultural ideal of masculinity.