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
By the time of our 12th conference, Rising from the Ashes, Calling Forth the Vision, Reshaping the World, the events of September 11th had occurred. They had commanded not only our attention but that of the nation, the entire world. Seldom do more than a few events in a lifetime command such universal focus. There had been the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy when I was a young man, so for myself and my contemporaries we may have reached our share and quota. We could hardly miss the opportunity to consciously experience together the myriad of feelings, thoughts, fears, confusions, hopes and prayers that such a shattering event might engender.
In a time of crisis, what is it that men call forth — demons from the past or angels for the future? Men new to this work and returning elders as well, the time calls to us all equally — a time to stand up for what we know in our soul, a time to create a real alternative, a world that supports rather than crushes Humanity.
That year our opening Friday night ceremony in the meadow was especially stunning. Each of us brought from a prepared pile of shaved and shaped wood two pieces, one to symbolically contain our private grief and the other to carry the weight of what it was we were grieving in the world. Our two pieces were then stacked together with everyone else’s two pieces to form two separate towers of wood. The towers were then set on fire. We all stood in silence and watched these towers burn to the ground. Everyone was incredibly moved. Such collective witnessing brought on a cathartic release of our grief – no blame, no explanations, just our grief in the witnessing of this particular image of sorrow. It stood in a stark contrast to the vociferous reactive re-plays we had endured all year with the media images and their interpretation of the events of September 11th.
The present challenge is to create a new, potent, caring and benevolent vision, an imagination of bravery that leads to peace and shared prosperity. How can we help transform the world? When we stand together in a united imagination, we are powerful beyond all dreaming. We will explore these questions through ancient folklore, ritual, small group sharing, art, grief, laughter and music.
We had been led deeper into our creative imagining. At whatever point any one of us had entered the “men’s movement,” whatever limits we had placed on how much transformation was possible, whatever the doubts of our own will and abilities, we were inspired by the pressing realization that change, some change was absolutely necessary. None of us could go on in the old patterns any longer; we felt compelled to invest in some perceived hope, and our intention, perseverance, and willingness to change ourselves was what we had to invest and was, I believe, blessedly, enough. Forces hitherto unrecognized came to our aid, “a great wisdom,” as the previous year’s brochure had called forth, “aroused to help us in our quest.”
Now we knew not only that we had nothing to lose but that collusion with the old world was less and less acceptable. September 11th and the war which mendaciously followed rubbed our noses in the poverty and cruelty of the imagination that seemed to be taking the world further down the path of endless destruction. There had to be a better way and we had to be able to create it. We discovered our common longings and we were moved enough to allow them to lead us. Our collective awareness that change is not only necessary but eminently possible led us to the discovery of our ultimate resource, a “united imagination.” To gather, define and then learn how to apply this united imagination remains our ongoing work.
We started by resurrecting a different set of towers in our minds and hearts, sacred towers that might carry us to larger ideas of ourselves and place our hope on a firmer footing. We invoked two such images:
I am circling around God,
around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon,
or a storm
or a great song.
But as the Tower crumbles it reveals a sturdier foundation, something which perhaps you did not expect but which, nevertheless, arrives fully formed and strong into your life. (Major Arcana #16 from the Ryder-Waite Tarot.)