Saturday, March 19, 2011

Courage -- A Letter to a Young Man

In you, I see courage. You take your experiences in life, and where you are at, and you move forward. You move into the unknown, knowing that you take your past, and where you are today, and you feel you must move on.

On down the river, on over the wall, on up the mountain. Ever onward.

There are steps to take, challenges to face, explorations of who you are inside. And, you go.

You look backward, a bit, figuring out who you have been, what you have experienced, and what that all means. You try to make sense of it. You try to understand it, and what all that means, for the man you want to be. You do not live in the past, as you cannot change the past. You can only understand the past. That understanding gives you power.

Growing into manhood is hard work. It is not just taking each day as it comes, and being content to do the least amount of work to get by, to park yourself in front of the TV and not be engaged, to just let life go by. To snooze. If you snooze, you lose. Instead, you are awake, alive.

Instead of taking the lazy path, the path of least resistance, you step outside of your comfort zone, and you dig into your troubled past, and you dig into your gut, and you crack open the door of the dark stuff that lies buried, deep and dark, the scary stuff, deep inside.

You are curious of what lies there, in the dark and stink of your life, and you are readying your broom and your mop, and maybe your shotgun, getting ready to wrestle with the monsters that lurk down there. You are tired of the stink and the slime, and you want to clean house.

You soak up knowledge, hungry for news, hungry for challenge, hungry as your mind desires new ways, new approaches to life. You want a new world to explore, a new world in which to live, and fresh air to breathe.

You said this week that you’ve “been around the block”, and have sampled much of the dark side of what life has to offer, and there remains in your mouth the bitter taste of dissatisfaction, of emptiness, of shallow thinking. It is not enough for you, that bitterness, and you crave more, something sweet, substantial, meaningful.

And, so the light of understanding and the hunger for digging deep into your emotions and your gut now comes into your life. You realize there is more, so much more, in life. You are ready for this new adventure, this new calling, this need to be the explorer, the adventurer, and yes, the surgeon.

You are taking control of your life, and your mind. You are deciding not to live life according to someone else’s plan, someone else’s expectations for you. You are writing your own movie script, your own stage play, and you are now walking out onto the stage of your life, and taking the leading role. You are becoming the star in your own movie.

The journey into your heart and into your gut, into the emotional universe that lies within you, scares you. That place has been off limits for so long. Taboo. Forbidden. Too scary for words. It has been much safer to simply ignore that place, and not go there, and to fill that place with garbage and horror, and lock the door.

Yet, men do go there. Men crack open that door, and discover their heart, and their gut, and the emotions and feelings that are there, inside. For that is who we really are. We men are emotions, we are feelings. We are the currents and forces of conflicting and churning stuffs.

In you, there is anger. A lot of anger. I would call that righteous anger. Not anger for anger’s sake, or simply rising out of the hormones and stress of growing up in this often crazy world. Your anger is deeper, more complex, more intense.

As it should be. You have a right to claim your anger. You have a right to express your anger. You anger is earned from all the horrible and nasty experiences you have had, experiences that have tried to dehumanize you, to steal your manhood, your manliness.

My hope for you is that you claim your anger, to seize it, drag it out of its dark, filthy hiding place, and bring it into the light. Rip off its covers, and dump it out of its stinky box, and see it for what it is. Give it air. Give it light. Give it voice.

And rage, and yell, and scream, as you give it a name, and give your anger its voice. Express yourself and let it be known that you are angry, that you claim your anger, and that it is earned. Declare that it is a poison in your life and you are becoming free of it, that it will no longer have a claim on your manhood.

It is a righteous thing to do. It is seeking Justice.

And, when you do this, you will not be alone, and you will not be defeated. You will gather around you those people in your life who give you strength and support and love. We will be at your back, and we will cheer you on. You will draw from us the strength and determination you will need to give voice to your anger, and let yourself be heard.

There will be fear and hesitation and doubt. Yet, those are the sinister tools of your anger, the tools that anger uses to keep its power over you, its power to keep claiming your manhood.

And, knowing that will give you strength and courage.

We men are called to the river, and we are called to put our boats into the raging current and paddle out into the rapids. We are called to gauge the currents, and find the rocks and boulders, and hidden logs, and we are required to navigate the river, and to come to know its song.

And, as we run the rapids and as we come to know the river, and make it familiar, even beloved territory, we are finding our own song, our own rhythm, our own drawing of what our life is. The river song becomes our song, our melody. We men sing our song loudly, and with pride. It is our song.

As we men go into our hearts, and into our guts, and as we find the words and the songs to express what is inside of us, then we find our own songs. We find our strength and we find our gold.

In that journey, we open the windows in our soul, and we air out the stench of the ugliness, the bad times, the things that were so bad, so awful that we put them in black boxes and sealed them up with tape, and hid them in the darkest part of our basement. And, instead of letting those blackest, most evil things lurking and hiding in our basement, stink up our lives, we toss those boxes out onto the front lawn of our lives, and rip the boxes open. We let the wind carry off the stench, and we let the bright sunlight of our courage and our knowledge and our self confidence burn into the rotten garbage of the past.

We take our hose and flush away the filth, and the blackest slime and ooze, and make it all clean and fresh.

We call that stench, that filth, for what it is and we give it a name. We shout its name out loud, so that all our friends can hear. We do this so that the stink will know what it is, and so it will have no more power over us.

We feel clean, refreshed, pure. We feel that we are sacred and holy, for we are men. We are children of God, and we are good.

And, all of this is taking power, taking control. Becoming a man in your own house, your own soul.

None of us takes this journey alone. We bring our ancestors, we bring the strong, healthy members of our family, we bring our good friends. We bring our cheerleaders, our allies. We bring our armor and we bring our spears. We bring our courage.

You are the Captain now. You are the Man. You are the Boss. Not me. Not anyone else. And, definitely not the slime and the filth that has clogged and polluted your soul.
Be free.

And, be a man. Be the man you want to be.

--Neal Lemery 3/19/2011

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