Once again we must face the reality that we live in a country where we are unable to protect our children from being murdered in their schools. The politicians blame each other and one political party thinks the other is destroying the country. Too many people have just given up hope and accept a suicidal future where the best we can do is arm ourselves with ever more powerful weapons and go out in a blaze of despair.
The writer Joan Didion, who died on December 23, 2021, was known for her incisive depictions of social unrest and psychological fragmentation. She said,
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means—what I want and what I fear.”
I say yes to all of that. I also write to try and figure out what it means to be a good man at this time in human history.
In my first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, I described my experiences with non-violent martial art, Aikido, and quoted one of my instructors Richard Strozzi-Heckler who trained Green Berets and wrote a book, In Search of the Warrior Spirit. He said,
“the traditional warrior virtues of courage, loyalty, selflessness, service, and guardianship were probably first enacted by hunter warriors as they stalked and killed game, protected their clans from predatory animals or looting bands, and even participated in ritual ‘war.’”
We’ve come a long way from these traditional warrior practices, but its not too late return to our warrior roots. In my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home, Healing Men, Healing the Planet, I grappled with the reality that human beings seemed to be out of balance with the community of life on planet Earth and I wanted to understand why males, as a group, were becoming increasingly angry and depressed. I also wanted to counter the view that there was something inherently destructive about masculinity. As the women’s movement grew and many were challenging the oppressive system of domination that tried to keep women down, some feminist women blamed men for their problems and decided that men were not needed at all.
I still remember seeing Gloria Steinem at feminist rally I attended with my wife in the early 1970s. She was wearing a t-shirt with the now infamous slogan,
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
I wondered whether men like me would become superfluous and unneeded and whether there was really a place for men in the world of liberated women.
When I wrote the book I got a lot of flak from many of my colleagues and friends who objected to my use of the term “warrior” to describe men today. Many, understandably, associated warriors with war and killing and felt I should use a different term in calling men to action to heal our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the planet we all share.
In the book, I reflected on our 2-million-year history, more than 99% of which, humans were “hunter-gatherers” until we shifted to or food by domesticating animals and developing agriculture.
“When we stopped being hunter-gatherers, we changed more than just the way we got our food. We began seeing the nonhuman world—plants, animals, the earth itself—as resources to be exploited by mankind, and we lost our spiritual connection to life.”
In the words of the philosopher, Martin Buber, we shifted from an I-thou relationships to at I-It relationships and the sacred began to vanish from our lives. Having lost our intimate connection with the earth, a void was created in our masculine souls. What we did to the Earth we did to ourselves and what we did to ourselves, we did to women and children.
The journey home is really a journey back to reconnect with who we are meant to be. First, we need to reconnect with the women in our lives. Second, we need to reconnect and heal our wounded selves, which often involves healing the family father wound that so many of us have. As the psychologist, James Hollis, reminds us,
“A father may be physically present, but absent in spirt. His absence may be literal through death, divorce or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have acquired.”
Finally, we have to reconnect with Gaia the living earth itself and end our suicidal poisoning of our life-support system.
The World Needs a New Kind of Warrior Leader
Since The Warrior’s Journey Home was first published in 1994, the world has become increasingly complex and it is clear to many that many aspects of our dominator system are beginning to collapse. As the Czech statesman, playwright, and former dissident, Václav Havel so presciently recognized,
“Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.”
As social activist and leadership expert, Margaret Wheatley wrote in her book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity,
“We are not the first leaders to be stewarding a time of disintegration, fear, and loss. But none of us has been prepared for where we are.”
She goes on to say,
“The Warrior’s arise when the people need protection. The human spirit needs protection. May the Warrior’s arise.”
Warriorship does not have to be about war and domination. In The Warrior’s Journey Home, I quoted meditation master Chögyam Trungpa, from his book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.
“Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”
Margaret Wheatley says,
“The Warriors are armed with only two weapons: compassion and insight. They are peaceful warriors vowing to never use aggression or fear to accomplish their ends.”
My Aikido instructor, Richard Strozzi-Heckler who taught awareness disciplines to the military, offered these thoughts in his book, In Search of the Warrior Spirit:
“The ancient warrior archetype—one who embodies compassion and wisdom, as well as the ability to take effective action when necessary—is the model to bring sustainable peace and balance to humans and an endangered planet.”
Two Modern-Day Warrior Leaders: Brandon Webb and John David Mann
Brandon Webb is a combat-decorated Navy SEAL sniper turned entrepreneur who has built two brands into an eight-figure business. As a U.S. Navy Chief he was head instructor at the Navy SEAL sniper school, which produced some of America’s most legendary snipers.
John David Mann has been creating careers since he was a teenager. Before turning to business and journalism, he forged a successful career as a concert cellist and prize-winning composer. He in an award-winning author whose books are published in 38 languages and have sold more than 3 million copies.
They have been writing together for a decade, starting with their 2012 New York Times bestselling memoir The Red Circle. Their celebrated FINN X thriller series debuted in 2021 with Steel Fear, which one of my favorite writers, New York Times bestselling author, Lee Child, gave a rave review. “Sensationally good—an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.”
These two men have come together to create books that offer a new perspective on men, masculinity, and what it means to be a leader on today’s world. When John Mann sent be a copy Steel Fear, he inscribed it, “For Jed. I hope you enjoy my treatise on leadership disguised as a crime novel!”
I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Cold Fear. International best-selling thriller writer, Jeffery Deaver says,
“Cold Fear grabs you on the first page and never lets go. A brilliant blend of procedural mystery and geopolitical thriller . . . one of the best crime novels of the year.”
Not only are their books great reads, but they also teach us important lessons about what it means to be a good man in today’s world and the kind of new masculine leadership that is needed now more than ever. You can learn more about the books by Brandon Webb and John David Mann by visiting their website. You can also learn about their June in-person book tour. If you’d like to learn more about my own books and articles, come visit me at MenAlive.com. If you’d like to read more articles like these, please consider joining our community to receive our free weekly newsletter.
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