I remember feeling as though all the big questions had been answered. There I was, a confident young man coming of age at the end of the Cold War. Politicians assured me the economic struggles of the past were a distant memory and that the burgeoning Internet would provide prosperity for all. And, as a child, I was taught our country had heard and answered the call for racial justice and gender equity before I was even born.
Except they weren’t and it hadn’t. Little of what I believed then was true. All the big questions and all the big problems were still there, along with the gaping wounds and real human suffering. I had simply been trained and educated not to see and acknowledge them.
Today it’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit my naïveté and ignorance, but I’m not alone. There’s so much privilege implicit in the comfortable refusal to see the harsh realities of this world. Yet now that the veil has been torn away, a part of me feels more at peace in my awakened recognition, even as I struggle with acceptance and addressing what is mine to do.
My spiritual journey did not begin in Illuman. The doorway that led me here was opened by Twelve Step Spirituality. In fact, I’d bet few of us involved with Illuman—through Council, Soularize, the Men’s Rites of Passage, or another program—would say that we began our journey here. But we're here now, and we continue our work in Illuman because we've found fertile spiritual ground. We also rediscovered our own vulnerability while striving toward greater intimacy with other men, our families, our communities, and our world.
As many of you are aware, during this past year Illuman has undertaken a Reweaving Process and has voluntarily entered liminal space to redress old wounds and allow for reimagining the way we organize and interact with the world. As is often the case with such deep work, we got much more than we bargained for. I believe it’s also important to recognize that no matter how far removed at times our spiritual work may seem from our daily living, Illuman does not exist in a vacuum, but is very much a part of the churning and swirling milieu the world is experiencing socially, politically, economically, and culturally.
The well-known author, mythologist, and story-teller Michael Meade offers some perspective for the times in which we live. He says, "The contemporary world often turns upside down because we are in an end-of-the-era upheaval. We are in the great uncertainty and the kind of torment that can happen as one era ends and the next tries to begin. And during such a time…there’s an acceleration of calling."1
From our very first rites of passage (held in 1996) to this present moment, Illuman has been an organization dedicated to transforming men through the power of ancient but neglected rituals, and to community building. Thus, it’s no surprise to me that we’ve come to this pivotal point and are now asking ourselves how we can continue to evolve and to support the change and transformation surrounding us.
I don’t like to spend time in rooms without windows and I would never linger in a place with only one doorway. The spiritual journey traverses all kinds of terrain through all sorts of spaces. Along the way, doors to new paths are forever opening. Consequently, I would never trust a person, let alone an organization, that professed to have all the answers.
I don’t know what the future holds, but my own involvement with Illuman has shown me many ways to engage this world and to be of service to others. And though Illuman may not become a force of goodness and change for all people everywhere, I do hope that it will continue to be a loving force of meaningful transformation for others, just as it has been for many of us.
I struggle daily to acknowledge my own powerlessness. It’s draining to be humbled over and over again by the harsh realities of life. Still, I’m optimistic that the flame of soul ignited within me has caught fire the world over, and that all shall be well in the Universe. As is often said in Twelve Step Work, “Focus on progress, not perfection.”