What is it that calls you to be better than you are? What is it that tells you that you can be more than you are? Do you listen to the voice or minimize it? Do you think yourself less worthy than me?
You have value, come with me. The time is now.
There was a time when old men lived side by side with people of all ages, holding honored positions within the community; they were valued for their discretion and experience. In times of conflict, they balanced the young warrior's desire for adventure and physical challenge, offering sage discretion grown from having suffered the regrettable consequences of battle. Excluded from the rigors of war these old men were often left to face the grief of those remaining at home, conscious of the painful costs incurred when young men go off to dominate their world, these old men understood the unspoken consequences of aggression.
They knew boys would find a way to be initiated into manhood even if they had to create hardship and suffering to test themselves. The old men were gatekeepers to maturity, able to recognize when the time was right for a boy to become a man, they watched for signs confirming the moment, and they often had a long tradition of ceremony to support their challenge of initiation. Identified by many names worldwide, vision quest, hero's journey, rite of passage, all initiations share a common theme. Separation, Descent, Ordeal, and a Welcoming back. These old men were schooled in the art of initiation.
Young men were separated from their families, challenged emotionally and physically in an effort to discover unique strengths and weaknesses, then welcomed into the world of adulthood charged with the responsibility of making their contribution to the tribe or village. They began leaving the narcissism of the child behind, taking their rightful place, maturing as an adult. A pivotal moment began this process; the old men faced an initiate and said, "I see value in you, now is the time to prove yourself, come with me, we are ready for you." Deep within our bones a hunger still lives to hear an admired man speak these words. No matter where we come from, or which culture has left its imprint on our soul, our hunger to be seen as valuable, then challenged to reach our potential are the words we yearn to hear. Regardless of our tribe or culture, we share a common desire for initiation without ever knowing why.
"You have value, come with me"
How long have you been waiting for an old man to seek you out and speak these words?
We have abandoned our old men, assigning them positions of powerlessness. They diminish the wisdom gained from years served, certain their life experience has little value, banishing themselves to Desert or Oceanside havens, living with isolation and regret as their constant companions in self-imposed exile. Today the world worships a youthful god of action in place of the aged god of discretion and wisdom. We still hunger for some challenge offered by a respected elder, ache for some affirmation of personal value convincing us of our inherent worth, yet we resist aging. We pray maturity will somehow eclipse this world of youth, but secretly dream it will leave us eighteen forever. The desire to be valued first felt as a youth mutates into resentment as years pass and our hunger grows, fueled by competition and jealousy administered in doses by those senior in years or authority. Endlessly waiting for the benevolent acknowledgement and worthy challenge offered by a true elder, we instead grow bitter and cynical. The art of initiation practiced in the past by wise men and women may well be lost. Those schooled in initiation have almost disappeared, lost to a time that no longer exists. The hunger to be tested once satisfied by the vision quest of old, replaced by a solitary journey where no welcome home is offered, unique contribution discouraged and individual value left to languish crumbling over time into regret and self absorbed introspection. We try desperately to initiate ourselves through these passages, but what good is virtue when no one else bears witness.
Today we are initiated in isolation; seldom clear on the lesson, rarely blessed for our action.
We find personal initiations today everywhere we look, opportunities to rise above our previous limitations and challenge our fears or create new. Unlike days of old where the challenge came from outside in the form of a fierce animal or harsh climate, today the greater challenges are found within ourselves. A failed relationship, or business crises brings us to our knees, forcing us across a threshold insisting we see ourselves in a new way. Marriage certainly one of the most potent initiations takes limitless courage if for no other reason than to deflect stories of broken promises trailing behind countless families. The birth of a child, the grandest of all initiations into womanhood initiates the father as well, propelling the new parents into a world of unfamiliar feelings and monumental expectations; every one, an initiation that shapes us from inside.
Today's "Hero's Journey" grows within us, often unspoken or endured with stoicism we are incapable of ignoring the call, life tests us insisting we discover our strengths. Few of us approach these initiations consciously, swept up in reaction or emotion we pass through life's challenges daring to risk an easy breath occasionally, yet also fearful of the future. Deeper enduring values are learned in the crucible of initiation, modeled by older wiser souls that know of the struggle, their vitality proof we will survive. They must refuse us passage through the gates until they see us consider our values and reflect them from our eyes for all to see. Only then do we become convinced of our value. When a respected man or woman looks into our eyes and believes we are powerful and just, we gladly live up
to their expectations. You are my best hope for the future; will my children be consumed by the hunger we have all suffered at the hands of absent elders? Or will you be the first to touch my daughter on the shoulder and say "Come with me, we are ready for you, I see something great in you" Will you seek out my son and convince him of his worth, challenge him to be great and fully capable of making his contribution?
Your "Hero's journey" awaits, will you put aside the playthings of youth, risk valuing your life experience enough to become that wise man or woman convincing others of their worth? Can you risk taking a stand against violence and oppression knowing the price? Put down the burden of your past and refuse fear the freedom to run your life? Will you touch my children with benevolence, while challenging them into true maturity?
"Most men live lives of quiet desperation" (Thoreau)
The desperation we experience is not one of inadequacy, we are all desperate to make a unique contribution, be remembered fondly and leave a visible legacy. Desperate because we know the time is running out.
We must not wait for the wise ones to appear, or lament their departure, we must become them. Are you ready? I see something great in you.