24.8.09

Colored Men



The speaker was Robert Bly.  The evening was titled "Red, White, and Black."  The topic was specific to men; there are some similarities to women, but maybe that's for another day.  Here's the Reader's Digest version:
In their late teens, 20s, and early 30s, men should have a sense of "red" about them - a.k.a., blood.  Whether they're feeling their oats or behaving full of piss and vinegar, this is knowing that if a fist fight is awaiting you, it's best to get the first hit.  Most mothers hate to see their sons in "red."  
In their mid30s up to around 60, men move into the "white."  They've settled down a little and are very much a champion of "community." They'll organize groups to clean up the parks, serve on the school board, take the cub scouts fly-fishing, go to Father-Daughter balls, etc., etc.  It can be a very productive season.
Past 60 and beyond, a man goes "black" - think Eastwood in Gran Torino; the old curmudgeon who growls and tell the neighbor kids, "Hey, punks, get the hell out of my azaleas!"  He'll stand up in health care reform town hall meetings and get rowdy. He'll also tell the young emerging preacher to tuck his shirt in and nobody gives a whipple-eyed dingleberry about the monastics.

Bly held fast to these colors; he supported his beliefs with the weight of man-history.  There was obviously much elaboration; one point I'll mention.  Bly spoke directly to men who considered themselves Christian: "You skip the red and go straight to white because that's who you think Jesus wants you to be and then wonder why you're so mad in your late 30s/early 40s...it's so unfair; everybody expects you to be white as snow from beginning to end.  The 'red' doesn't go away; it has to be honored somehow, someway, sometime."

Bly's not God; he'd be the first to tell you that.  And yes, these colors could be seen as limiting, possibly even constricting because 50 is the new 30, blah, blah, pa, ma. And if you should go looking for scriptural chapters and verses that speak of the red, white, and black, well, let me go ahead and tell you you'll be disappointed; oh, I believe they're there, but you can't find them via Bible Gateway.  But I also believe the old poet said much that is true, especially about "red."

Men, you may not agree with this, but something deep inside tells me you may believe it.  

17 comments:

  1. Interesting. I'd have to say that while it's best not to speak in generalities, as we are, after all, individuals, he speaks some truth here. In fact, Bly got quoted often in Fathered By God, a book by John Eldredge originally mistitled The Way of the Wild Heart. Many people took that first title and thought it to be a sequel to Wild at Heart, but it wasn't.
    Anyway, this book is about the stages of a boy's/man's life, and uses some scripture, and a lot of conjecture, to back it up. Personally, I liked the work, but I imagine a few here may not.

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  2. Immediate similarities to Wild at Heart came to my mind. Similar in conjecturing pre-defined roles for all men a bit too large in its generalizations for my taste.

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  3. yeah, generalizations are dangerous, but Eldredge's point was that society has already generalized things by pushing men and boys into a direction that is not good for them, or the culture as a whole. He did it more to identify what the wrong messages have been, and where they are coming from, than to actually tell any one man he needs to be a certain way.

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  4. James,

    It's interesting to me as well. Sure, the generalities thing is fair, but I do wonder sometimes if we lean so far in the direction of "individual" that we lose our grasp of the "general."

    I've read most of John E's writings and attended several of his conferences...

    Thanks,
    John

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  5. Josiah,

    Whereas John E. does tighten in and present "roles", I felt Bly threw the net much more wide (and he threw it long before Wild at Heart came along).

    Both you and James used the word "conjecture" - interesting choice...

    Thanks,
    John

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  6. I used that word because one of the criticisms of JE is that he is extra-bibilcal. He backs up his points with items other than scripture, in addition to scripture, of course, and he doesn't knowingly conflict with or disagree with scripture. But much of it is conjecture. For example, he cannot prove that God made man with a need to fight the battle, live the adventure, and rescue the beauty. But he presents ample extra-biblical reasons to accept that idea.

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  7. I object to the whole "rescue the beauty" schitck. In fact, that is the point in reading Wild at Heart that I threw the book at the wall.

    If men were designed to rescue women, then women were designed to be helpless and scream for rescue. I can't take it.

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  8. Larry, I can't take it either.

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  9. Larry, throwing books against the wall? Sounds like a little "red" - that's good:)

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  10. If you would have kept reading it, rather than throwing it against the wall, you'd have seen that Eldredge was saying that women are anything but helpless.

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  11. James,

    I know many people who have been blessed by the books. I know that I could get past that one instance of sexism.

    And I just get too pissed to want to.

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  12. Over the years, I have found that it's easy for me to get offended if someone isn't blessed by a book that blessed me. And in my case, WAH was used by God to provide some major healing. But just as I'd be wrong to insist that you should like the book because of what it did for me, you'd be wrong to do the reverse. Not that you did that.

    BTW, if you read To Own a Dragon, you may have noticed that Don Miller also threw the book across the room, then later read it, and went to a WAH boot camp, and he was very glad he did.

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  13. I don't mean to minimize the healing you experienced, James. Thanks for understanding.

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  14. Larry, I know you didn't, and hope I was clear on that.

    I also know that Eldredge's viewpoint is flawed. So is Don Miller's and mine and yours. Sadly, I have seen some adopt the work of a teacher or author they really like as their personal theology. Nobody here, of course, but it's a danger, and I have seen it played out with Eldredge fans in my life at a friend's church. And it's a shame.

    A much better plan is to take the good out of WAH, or BLJ or any writings of Miller, Eldredge, or Lucado, or whoever. Take the good from from it, be blessed in it, and not be affected by the other stuff.

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  15. James,

    If you'd build a personal theology around my last book and proselytize, it would help my royalties.

    Best!

    Larry

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  16. Will do. I'll get right on that.

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  17. Larry...I wrote "BS" at the top of one page and threw the book against the wall! Then I got drug to a WAH boot camp and my life was totally changed. Now, it wasn't just the boot camp that changed me...it was the message of the boot camp plus the fellowship of brothers who took me there and with whom I have continued to meet with weekly for 4 years.

    I am just now finishing Iron John. I think many Christians would find Bly offensive and dangerous...but for me, reading Bly is the completion of WAH. It is one of the more emotional books I've ever read.

    I'd encourage one to read WAH and then Iron John. And if you hate them, no worries...but at least you read the primary sources!

    It's like complaining about NT Wright without ever reading him or screaming about evolution without ever reading Darwin. Just my thoughts...

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