O Brothers, Where Art Thou?

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O Brother, Where Art Thou? http://www.FanPop.com

Two brothers, biological, and countless brothers through community; but for me to stay in touch with these guys … that’s the challenge.  We have the technology to text; we have the enlightenment of EMAIL; we actually have cell phones.  But what I do not have … is an excuse.  We … just … don’t … stay … in touch.  As for F2F (Face To Face) … what a concept … It just doesn’t happen.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (soundtrack)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the movie “O Brothers! Where Art Thou?”, I watched these three guys in and out of craziness … I was spellbound.  I have to hand it to them: the boys stuck together.  They could sing, yes?  Of course, I realize that they were not actually doing the singing, but … they put on a good performance.

A good brother is a good thing: one to laugh with, one you might even cry with, one to travel with, one to walk with you through some dark nights of the soul. Brothers: ideally, a reciprocal relationship.

As time goes on, a man either … succeeds in growing his brotherhood, both in numbers and in quality … or the isolation moves in gradually.  And the latter scenario is not really that bad; but I think the former is far better.  A man has to deal with the real issues: isolation is easier; community is messy; there is a desire in a man to be known by others; there is a fear of being known, by others.  It’s not easy either way.  But I think one challenge is always in front of a man.

What am I going to do about the relationships with my brothers?  What responsibility do I have, and what responsibility am I willing to pick up?  Something I am definitely thinking about.


Men With Iron Masks

Philippe: “I wear the mask. It does not wear me.” 

Through many windows, through many years, I’ve seen many faces, amongst the passersby.  I’ve sat across from many souls with different faces.  I’ve seen the same sojourner over a period of time and their faces are not always the same;

Philippe: “I’ve worn that mask so long I don’t feel safe without it.”

looking for something, someone.  Maybe not.

Maybe they are hiding from something, or someone; they are looking for a place to hide, from anyone who is looking for them.  And until they find that special place to hide, the place where they will find safety, more  control over life, peace, joy … they will keep the mask close. Some folks never remove the mask.

I’ve been called out, by good men and women, to be who I am supposed to be.  A mentor asked me if I was going to apologize to a particular woman I had a recent conflict with.  I explained that the woman had insulted me, to begin with.  My mentor, without any warning rebuked me in a manner I had never before experienced, “BE A MAN!” I never forgot those words.  He was definitely calling me out.

From the movie “Man in the Iron Mask” (from the book, authored by Alexander Dumas) Aramis called out Phillipe, who is the twin brother of King Louis IV : “We are offering you the chance to be king.”  Phillipe responded with “No, you offering me the chance to pretend to be king.”

Here is an important piece in all of this.  You may know a man …  husband, brother, father, friend … who wears a mask you may not even be aware of.  Maybe you have never seen him without the mask.  There might be trauma, there; or shame (not being the man he wants to be, or the man he thinks he should be, for example); or fear.  It would be great to live without the mask.  But, as Philippe told Athos, Porthos, and Aramus in “Man with the Iron Mask”: “I’ve worn that mask so long I don’t feel safe without it.”

Men’s Preoccupation w Isolation

Portrait of an old Eskimo man, 1929

My experience, working with men and wives, children, addicts … has shown three areas that overlap in the lives of men.  Over the last fifteen years, every man I have seen in therapy for (1) depression has had some dynamic of (2) isolation playing out in their lives either externally or internally. The third area, (3) suicidal thinking, does not show up nearly as often, but will sometimes lurk out in the waters further off shore.  

Cover of "I Don't Want to Talk About It: ...

Regarding depression, I should mention it now, the best book I’ve read up to this point on male depression: by Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It. ‘Brings to your awareness the words, “hidden depression” / “covert depression”. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so that is all I will say about Terrence Real’s book.

Isolation is like a mistress.  A guy by the name of Tom Varney taught me a great deal about isolation, depression, and psychotherapy.  He is the man who told me “… Isolation is like a mistress …”.  

My experience has been that there is some kind of psychological (non-sexual) intimacy a man can have with isolation.  A man becomes comfortable with this mistress, isolation; and becomes drawn in, to spending more time with isolation (his mistress).  Here is a question for you, reader / blogger / fellow student-teacher-wilderman: is there a difference between a) on one hand, a man chooses isolation as a mistress (selfishness is a big part of this), and b) on the other hand the Desert Fathers (emerged during 1 and 2 A.D.)?  The latter category may speak for itself, perhaps, as they were forerunners of the monastic sojourners.


Here is something that really stood out, which implies the (potential) overlapping of the isolation, depression, suicidal thinking :

“Men commit suicide 4 times as often as women … The grisly total of American men choosing to end their lives yearly is about 24,000.  Loneliness … part of the American male experience for a long, long time. Think about what life was like for the average settler, rancher and cowboy, working long hours mainly by themselves.” http://masculinityu.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/men-and-loneliness%E2%80%94ending-our-isolation/

The third area that shows up in the heart and soul of a man is  suicidal thinking.    Safety tip on suicidal thinking:  Any doubts about a friend’s safety? Call … 911.  Boom.  If you are a man who is experiencing suicidal thinking, isolation is probably happening, on some level, and you might as well connect with someone worth connecting with (with the exception of a bartender / drug dealer): therapist, spouse, friend, pastor.

If you choose not to connect with someone, you should ask yourself “why”.  Like Terence Real says in his book “I don’t want to talk about it” … and thus, isolation.   Whether you connect with someone or not, I’d like to respectfully recommend that you jot down what is triggering this thinking.  The suicidal thoughts are coming from someplace, someone, some … thing, some reason.  So, Bust a Move!  Get with it!  If you don’t want to do it, then that is the red flag that says “Talk to Someone. Now. Not later, but right now.

Okay, wrapping up with some themes of the stories of many men:

  1. Isolation / loneliness … initially overwhelming;
  2. Gradual acclamation to isolation (frog in the kettle?);
  3. Isolation becomes “homesostasis”;
  4. Depression / shame / self condemnation connect with the isolation / loneliness … which intensifies the (false) belief: “That’s just the way life is, for me.”  A dangerous place to be.

I’m glad my blogs are never this long.  But, this is obviously a passionate area for me.  After all, we are talking about men, and their struggle to be … FULLY ALIVE, which can be be sabotaged by isolation, depression, and suicidal thinking.

Light, in the Night

“Like the lightening … in the sky,
All men … will see Him and will cry, And the veils … will be lifted from our eyes,
‘Singing Glory … Glory most high,
Glory … Glory, most high …” 

Lyrics by Bobby Winter

English: light Bobby Winter: a humble warrior helping street people, punk rockers, prostitutes; he walked with a limp and a transcendent smile, nuanced by a look of mischief.  Bobby sang that song with another fellow, in the great room of a prolific mentor – – – David Hayes.  Now, that was over 25 years ago, you must understand: a big room filled with good people and festivity; excellent food; guitar players; stories; singing. Bobby has gone on, since then, beyond these earthly seasons.  David is still with us.

Lightning BoltsLightening, headlghts, lighthouses, street lamps … illuminating what needs to be illuminated.  Individuals through

Orlando Car Repair Experts

…… song, words, poetry; through sunrise, sunset, illuminating what needs to illuminated.  Fireball, east, bringing in morning; fireball west, calling in dusk, night, stars, full moon.

Moon & Tree
Moon & Tree: photo by Wilderman

 Light piercing, disrupting, night.  A campfire’s sparks fly up and, if you watch them, blend in with the night sky.  Day ended with night, sitting close to hearth and fire, the focus point for family. If only we had those stories that were told, then, in front of the fireplace.  At some point, TV replaced fireplace as the focus point for family to gather.  We are drawn to light … a psychological warmth.  Community has changed in context through generations.

Laptops brought a different light, and families do not gather around that light; for they are more of a solitary thing.  Good light does not die, redemptive light, hope light.  Light speaks life through our words; light disrupts the darkness through our prayers; light brings real hope through acts of service.  Light in our eyes connects with those who need to see the light, through the haze.  There is even light in the Dark Night of the Soul (Written by St. John of the Cross).

St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church.
St. John of the Cross / Photo by Wikipedia
Gerald May wrote: “There are gifts from the dark night, but they come in the morning.”  The honorable man, the honorable woman … they release the light, and others are better off for it.

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  John 1:5

Evil Thieves in Cleveland

There are different kinds of thieves.  Ariel Castro is one of the worst, most evil, kinds of thieves on the planet.  He stole ten years from three woman; Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, and Michele Knight.

Here is a random question: is there is a pattern between certain crimes with certain cities?  I consulted a website (you may all be familiar with), “Neighborhood Scout”.  This is what I learned there.

Cleveland’s Crime Index is “2”.  This means that Cleveland is safer than 2% of American cities.  The safest index would be “100”.  A resident of Cleveland has a 1 in 72 chance of being a victim of a crime.  Fortunately, the State of Ohio’s rate is much different: the chances of being a victim of crime 1 in 325. 

Here is a look at some numbers for Cleveland, Ohio:

Murder:  .19 per 1,000 / National Average: ..05
Rape:   .9 per 1,000     / National Average:    .27
Robbery:  8.03 per 1,000             /  National Average:  1:14
Assault:  4.68  per 1,000             / National Average  2.41
 Crimes Per Square Mile: 376    /  National Median 39.6

Here’s New York City, Crime Index is 47 (remember, the higher the number, the safer the city):

Murder:  .04 per 1,000 
Rape:  .14 per 1,000 
Robbery:  1.46 per 1,000 
Assault:  2.34 per 1,000 

I am crazy about stats, but I also cannot ignore that numbers can be helpful when it comes to data.  I cannot imagine the hell, the despair these three women went through, for ten years.  Some goons stole ten years away from these women.  Is there something wrong with this city, when it comes to keeping their people safe?    

(Re-Write) Poser Motivation: Blah … Blah … and, Blah.

Posers, fakers, counterfeits, chameleons, pleasers, politicians: “Blah-Blah-Blah.”

Talk is cheap? Nooooo, nothing is cheap.

A guy comes up to another guy, shakes his hand and says, with a ponderous- photogenic face: “You are a good man.”

The second guy thinks to himself, He’s probably a salesman, and he’s got something to sell … and then he says to the first guy: “Thanks.  But, how do you know that?”

The first guy explains that he knows him.  The second guy says, “Yeah?  Cool. How do you know me?”

The first guy says “I met you at a Christmas party last year.”

The second guy says “Actually, that is how you met me.  But that doesn’t mean you know me.”

There is a stretch of death-like silence that has poured out like molasses.  The salesman type appears to be a bit uncomfortable, and he has the famous “O-Look”: a mouth open, shaped liked an “O”, that accompanies a) speechlessness, b) facial expression of disorientation; and c) eyes resembling those of a deer staring into a pair of approaching headlights.

After almost a minute of wordlessness, the second guy says in a calm, low, whispery voice: “You really don’t know much about me, do you?  (pause) Are you trying to motivate me?”

The first guy shrugged his shoulders, gestures his hands with palms open, as if he did not know what to say.

The second guy then said, “Look, I realize you are probably trying to do something … nice … but I don’t need someone I don’t know, someone who does not know me, to do something nice for me, like motivation.  Your words lack power, authenticity, empathy.”

The two men made eye contact for another thirty seconds in continued silence, and slowly walked away in different directions.

Under his breath, the second guy whispered, in a contemplative manner, “Blah … Blah … and, more Blah.”

As individuals, we do not always know what another is going through.  We have no idea about their dark night of the soul.  We have not walked in their shoes.  A man cannot pay his bills; the dryer quit working, there is no money to get it fixed.  His car is dying.

Authenticity in relationships.  As men, we have a fear of being known; and we have a great desire of being known.

Wood Cutting is Here … It’s Okay.

I am showing my age, I guess.  This world is saturated with technology … I purposely think back to when  I was a kiddo growing up in the rural South: rotary phones (no touchtone); phones only with chords; computers were something people talked about, but they were not in people’s homes.  Enough … Yes, I know.  No one really wants to reflect on the pre-technology days … Well, maybe some of us do.  I am obviously not anti-technology, otherwise I would not have a blog; nor a cell phone; nor a laptop; nor a desktop …

Being outside, up here at 8800 feet, an hour west of Denver, my heart, mind and soul literally drinks in the elements of nature.  Tim w icicleI told my kids today in the old Subaru, as we looked out the windows, that I was going to miss the snow, as it is starting to diminish.  The snow is an experience that I cannot really describe in terms that you have not already heard before.  Thus, to prevent the irritation of redundancy, I will just say “snow”.  The snow is awesome.

I had a large pile of 18 inch logs that were never chopped for firewood. Today I worked on that, and my goal is to get the “chopped wood” pile as big as I can.  There is something about a pile of firewood that is pleasing to my eyes, and to my psyche.  wood pile

When I was a kid, I heard chainsaws, during the he summer, fall, and early winter, and I assumed that I would never have any interest in running a chainsaw.  But, for the last 8 years I have needed a chainsaw for the wood … which fuels our woodstove.

The sound is never pleasant.  But, I appreciate being able to see the results of my labor.  To know, simply by looking at the logs that have been cut, that I have made some progress is a most therapeutic experience.   I also like the smell of the timber and the sawdust.  I enjoy working by myself, with no one else around.

For the last 15 years, I have been a psychotherapist.  Often times, especially working with high-risk children and adults and families, progress is not always evident.  Working with addicts, relapse is common.  And when you have clients who have overdosed, whether accidentally or intentionally, you find that it is easy and common to question your work, your investment into people, and the progress that has been made.

Wood cutting season.  It’s here.  And, it’s going to be okay