Yesterday was the third anniversary, presaged here.
It was a strange day. Periods of intense busy-ness, interrupted by short spells of nothing-ness, waiting for the next interviewee to turn up. In those gaps, I found myself considering a recent post I made on a forum that I frequently haunt, on the subject of what constitutes a “real man”:
A real man supports and nurtures the hopes and dreams of those he loves. A real man is not threatened by the success of his partner. A real man defends home and family, feeds the poor, tends the sick. A real man is kind to animals, children, and fools. A real man treats all around him as equal. A real man confesses his weaknesses, and is not afraid to seek help when he needs it. A real man listens as much as he talks. A real man stands up when he sees injustice. A real man finds happiness in the happiness of others. A real man laughs quickly and angers slow. A real man finds the good, the kind word, where others only see fault and seek to belittle. A real man has no need to apportion blame, and freely admits when he is in the wrong. A real man seeks the pleasure of his lover before his own. A real man… is hard to find…
At least that’s what my daddy taught me…
It started off as a simple, “wonder what I missed out that would piss him off?”, and extended to a consideration of the root of our behaviour and belief. Or, more specifically, my dad’s.
His own father died when he was only 14, apprenticed to a neighbouring shepherd. As oldest son, he was thrust into the unenviable position, of having to return home to support his mother and assist her in the raising of 10 siblings, the youngest of whom was just a baby. Otherwise, the family would have faced certain eviction, and a whole slew of unthinkable alternative realities which that could have set in motion. The “duty” affected the course of his entire life; delaying marriage into his mid-thirties, eliminating any possibility of following through on his boyhood plans to emigrate to Australia, and, no doubt, innumerable other hopes and dreams which could no longer come to fruition. Although my paternal grandmother died shortly after I was born, my youngest Aunt wasn’t married out of our house till I was 7.
Somewhere, amongst that, my father was forged into the man I grew up to know. Then it hit me. The 14-year-old version of my dad was coached and supported by a whole range of community elders. Wullie Hunter, David Dickie, Iain Brown; Uncle Geordie, Colin Campbell, and various names I no longer remember. It was surely the behaviour and beliefs of these gentle men which had, in addition to his own father, moulded him through these early years.
In that moment, the concept of “remembering the ancestors” made complete sense. The ancestral line is what defines us, at a primary, fundamental level. It is the ancestors who connect us to the earliest flowering of civilisation, beliefs and values. It is the ancestors who gift us the landscapes, physical and emotional, in which we live out our lives. It is the ancestors who bind all of us, one to the other.
Only through the action of allowing ourselves to reconnect with that vast lineage of pooled experience, hopes and dreams, can we fully achieve the best of what makes us human; and by accepting the limitations of that humanity, achieve our highest calling.
Yes, I agree with Thomas: I am currently working on clearing generations of ‘planning for loss & disaster’ which I have psychically inherited… You are lucky to have had such a positive attitude toward your ancestors. I feel positivity too, don’t get me wrong- all the strong women before me who birthed their babies at home too, & rose up against bad circumstances… But sometimes the past does need to be cut away, for true healing. Blessings to us all hey? Always learning & loving, trying to move toward ‘better versions’ of ourselves 🙂
Now. THAT explains a certain individual I know who is constantly launching the lifeboats, despite there being not an whiff of an iceberg… 😦 Wouldn’t mind, but when you’re the one that needs to put the lifeboats back in the davits…
And yes, indeed, for all of us, I think, there are aspects of our personal histories which need to be cut away. Too easy, in the west, to throw out the baby with the bathwater, though. Where would we be without that immense line of women, who, each in their turn, nurtured daughters… and whilst our individual stories vary dramatically, all these most ancient of ancestors ever wanted was to leave something worthwhile for those who would come after.
I’m afraid that our descendants are going to be more than a little pissed at what we are going to be leaving them to sort out…
I like your “real man” sayings; it reminds me of some of the Tao Te Ching (Jane English translation):
The beginning of the universe
Is the mother of all things.
Knowing the mother, one also knows the sons.
Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother,
Brings freedom from the fear of death.
Keep your mouth shut,
Guard the senses,
And life is ever full.
Open your mouth,
Always be busy,
And life is beyond hope.
Seeing the small is insight;
Yielding to force is strength.
Using the outer light, return to insight,
And in this way be saved from harm.
This is learning constancy.
Personally, I’m not into remembering my ancestors much. My father would physically beat us and he started my mother’s hair on fire; he was very hateful oftentimes (especially to me and my mother). My mother constantly had me (as a child) busy talking her out of committing suicide. Not all of us are lucky enough to have decent ancestors to reflect on; and that’s OK. 😉 Thank God for things like the Andy Griffith Show…
Thanks for that point of reference, Thomas.
Sorry to hear your early years were so troubled. Growing up, I assumed that all closed doors had safe spaces behind them. Discovering other people’s realities was an early wake up! And still it continues… 😦
Thanks, Running Elk… I truly wish that all closed doors had safe places behind them; but reality is weird sometimes (for sure). In a big way, what I went through may have really helped in the long run… in regard to understanding psychology/self awareness of the mind, conditioning, etc. People who have loving families are very lucky. Sometimes, though, that apparent luck turns into a blind acceptance… and many people go through life not questioning, not doubting, not really looking for themselves. Then they really never grow… and that is far more tragic than what I went through. 🙂
…and worse. Their seems to have been a development, perhaps in more recent years, of an expectation complex to go along with that blindness… everything in the world should be comfortable, easy and safe. Real life aint like that, yet the denial remains…
Seems we all need a little tension and uncertainty in early life (ours was economic) to come out the other side with the requisite strength and resiliance to see it through the full 3 score and 10 seeking something more than that which they would like us to believe… 😉