In 2010 we celebrated our 20th Annual Men’s Conference. In honor of that occasion, Hari Meyers, the Redwood Men’s Center Master Storyteller put together a retrospective of the first twenty years.
A History of the Redwood Men’s Center’s Conference-Gatherings
by Hari Meyers
Our 15th conference Walking a Path with Integrity, Finding Light in the Dark:
As men, how can we walk a path with integrity in our personal and community lives? Our culture erodes our truth, dignity, honor, honesty, self-esteem, and even our voices. With so much conflict and discouragement within and around us, where do we find light in the darkness, and how do we live hope?
We were all, planners and participants alike, feeling more and more reliant on trust. This growing trust, a trust in our wholeness, a trust in the collective Soul rising within us, this trust itself became our doorway to initiation. We had known, all the men undertaking men’s work whether in or out of the “movement” know, that some sort of initiation is necessary, an initiation from the naïve and puer aspects of our escapist selves, from the defensive and manipulative agenda of our controlling selves, an initiation into a deeper understanding, a more mature experience of masculinity.
The understandable response is to imagine that some sort of initiation ritual is necessary, one that will carry us forward into the wholeness and gravitas of our deeper Self. Such a ritual would indeed be wonderful if we could create an authentic, effective and meaningful one. Again, it is difficult to do so. After generations of fragmentation, after having wandered in our individuality so far away from any collective and agreed upon “tribal” values, who or what do we trust to do the initiating? Whether or not we have agreed-upon means of symbolically engendering such a ritual, some sort of initiation into manhood remains necessary.
Life itself, the spirit guiding our lives out of ego into Soul, will provide it. Either through some deepening experience, divorce, loss of a depended-upon job, my son’s accident, there are countless ways that life will guide us to the needed deepening and maturation. Also joyous events can initiate us, the commitment of marriage, birth of a child, devotion to a cause, but, immature and shallow complacencies being the most frequent blocks to our passage towards our greater selves, it is often by something we deem unwanted or tragic that we are shaken sufficiently enough to provoke real change. Heart-break breaks us open, commands our undivided attention. Our job is to allow, and learn. To do this we must hold at bay immediate and reflexive reactions and judgment, be willing to wait and see how it all plays out on a larger curve of the spiral of awareness. We who have undertaken the work of changing ourselves have learned to trust that a revelation of greater purpose is at hand. That trust, I believe, is the sacred oil anointing our initiation.
What better initiation for any man or boy than to be welcomed into the community of other men, like minded and open hearted. In such a community a man of goodwill becomes even more benevolent and hopeful, “joyfully celebrating,” as Joseph Campbell says, “the sorrows of the world.”
We have learned many important things:
- The wounds of our fathers and their fathers have impacted our lives. Entering and grieving those wounds creates in us a masculinity of tenderness, wisdom, and generativity.
- Men have much to offer each other through their differences— be they cultural, racial, sexual, political, spiritual, generational, or personal.
- Beauty and creativity, art and music, ritual and poetry are sources of inspiration, healing, and deep pleasure.
- Communication, relationship, and understanding among men form the foundation for a politics of peace and justice.
- We must continue learning how to creatively deal with conflict.
- Our personal, community, and global lives can not be separated.