When hosting Masculinity Movies LIVE #3 on Friday September 3, I had just returned from a really intensive one week taiji retreat in an Italian monastery. I was beat and very happy that I had invited my close friend Pål Christian Buntz to hold the space with me (I may not have managed to do it on my own). The smallest group yet, it also turned into perhaps the most intimate group yet, with - as far as I can tell - all six of us being very inspired and nourished by the compassion and wisdom of the ever-brilliant Robert Bly.
A Gathering of Men is a truly amazing glance into the life, work and world of this beacon of the men's movement. The golden nuggets abound and virtually everything Robert Bly says is like nectar to me. After watching the movie and letting it sink in a little, we re-opened the circle where we focused mainly on the father-son relationship.
I personally got the insight that I want to ask my father how he wanted to father me when I was little. It's so easy to get stuck on how we wanted our fathers to be there for us us. But when we get to a certain age and we are looking to find our peace with the past, present and future of relating to dad, we may find increased compassion for him by realizing that in growing into an individual with our own hopes and dreams, we may have turned into a different person than the one he dreamed of when he held our infant body in his arms. Maybe some of his dreams were shattered along the way? And then we spend the rest of our lives being mad at him for not being the father we wanted him to be? Turning into a truly mature man may involve having to forgive our father and to meet him where he is - with all his flaws.
Robert Bly talks in the movie about how he didn't include his father in his poems before he was about 46 or so. And that until that time, other men didn't trust him. There seems to be something important here - that in getting closer to our fathers, we become more trustworthy, powerful, loving and integrated men. Says Robert Bly in one of the poems that he reads in the movie:
When you light the lamp you will see him.
he sits there behind the door....
the eyebrows so heavy,
the forehead so light....
lonely in his whole body,
waiting for you.
Our fathers waiting for us, having been victims of shattered dreams and the conspiracy that we start with our mothers against him. There is so much gold to be mined from the work of Bly and the consensus was that the movie was pretty amazing. I also want to point out that Robert Bly is not a man that makes men ascend on some lovey-dovey new age trip. No, he takes us into the dark corners of our psyche where demons and orphaned boys linger in shadows. If you are willing to go there with him - as we did this evening - you will come back a more integrated and powerful man. For as Robert Bly emphasizes in the movie - fully mature manhood comes on the other side of grief. We got to walk the path of ashes. And I'm glad we have Brothers on the path to make that journey survivable.
Thanks for coming guys, it was a great evening.