What does masculine transformation look like?
This question has as many answers as there are programs that address the yearning of men for meaning and purpose in today’s world. One of the creative tensions I previously named in this column is that tension between the diversity of men versus our common experience: How do we acknowledge diversity of experience, culture, and language while seeking our common experience of manhood in Illuman?
This year I have had the opportunity to attend, in one capacity or another, four Men’s Rites of Passage: in Southern California in May, Germany in June, Ireland in July, and Texas in September. One of the things that impressed me the most is the common experience of men during the rites of passage.
What do I mean? The first night of the MROP, men are asked very early on to stand in the circle and state why they have come. Whether in Southern California, Germany, Ireland, or Texas, men tended to state the same motivations: to find my purpose, to process a loss in my life, to find my identity, to reorient my life, to recapture my joy, to find out who I am now. These yearnings come up in all the MROPs, wherever they are held. They are commonly held by men who come to our rites of passage.
By the end of the MROP, there is an amazing transformation evident. The men are invited to come up, proclaim their name, and claim their gold. Again, whether in California, Texas, Germany, or Ireland, the ritual is powerful and universal, and the men “show up” the same way, regardless of their background, culture, language, or position. The men stride to the center of the circle—the same circle they stood in just a few nights earlier, when they stated their yearnings in coming to the MROP. Now they stride forward, claim their bag of gold, and, holding it high, proclaim: “My name is …. and I choose to live as an initiated man!” It is a transformation that is seen and felt through the way the men move, the tone of their voices, and the look in their eyes.
For those of us who are in the position to watch this transformation, it is an awesome and humbling sight. The purpose and strength with which the men claim their identity at the end of the Rites is breathtaking. Watching each man come forward on Sunday morning and claim his name and gold is worth all the time and effort that creates the Rites. I have a deep sense that whatever happens from this moment forward, these men, at this one time in their life, have experienced a depth of acceptance and purpose that cannot be erased by any future circumstances of their lives. This experience is beyond borders, boundaries, culture, and language. It is why we exist.
*Correction—Last month, we incorrectly duplicated one of the quotes about the GERI Retreat. Below is the accurate reflection from Charles Myking.
“I believe we've witnessed the birth of a new venue! SROP – Shared Rite of Passage. The experience is a must!”
– Charles Myking