Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Looking for a few Good Men . . . Authentic, 21st Century Men, that is!

Resurrecting the Unicorn: Masculinity in the 21st Centurya review by Mel Mathews
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Resurrecting the Unicorn:
Masculinity in the 21st Century

Not long ago while listening to a NPR broadcast concerning Masculinity in the 21st Century, I was caught up by an interview of a woman journalist who had written about 'what it means to be a man in the 21st century.' The concept of a woman reporting on and defining, or attempting to define, masculinity was a bit off-putting. We tread on thin ice when a woman, or women define manhood and/or masculinity, just as we do when a man, or men attempt to define women and femininity. Sure, we all carry these contra-sexual aspects within, but that doesn’t make Man an authority on femininity, nor Woman an authority on masculinity, anymore than it makes a lefty an authority on a righty. The interview soon shifted away from a woman’s definition of masculinity and to pop-cultural definitions of manhood. Perhaps I was still ruffled by this lefty-righty thing, but I also considered it quite shallow to have masculinity or femininity defined by fleeting fashions of pop-culture, for as naturally as DNA defines genetics, archetypal patterns define the psychological and spiritual makeup of masculinity and femininity—not passing trends.

Now, speaking as a man about masculinity, I can say that many 21st century men have been raised by women—without a masculine role model—and what they've learned about being a man has been defined by the media, the women’s movement, and many other distorted social norms. Often, such men discover that they are no longer able or willing to carry these externally imposed values and instead seek alternative definitions of masculinity and lifestyles. Some would call these periods of change a crisis; others would consider this a step in the direction of mental health. Regardless of how we label this time of soul-searching, it ultimately calls for a willingness to suffer the unknown. The rewards for such courage often prove quite beneficial. For those willing to take on the task of becoming an 'authentic' man, one can expect to gain a more defined sense of self who is moved by his own internal values, and in turn experience a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

However, all the compensatory posturing, chest-pounding or drum-beating in the world won't revive this great masculine spirit. This can only be accomplished by developing a deeper relationship to soul, to the archetypal patterns or energies that comprise the core aspects of our beings. The mental landscape of metaphors—dreams, stories, myths, fairy tales—deal with the eternal truths of human nature and are the language of soul. In the recently published book Resurrecting the Unicorn: Masculinity in the 21st Century, Bud Harris masterfully guides readers deep into the realm of metaphors where we can examine the evolution and development of human consciousness and reclaim discarded, yet much needed, integral aspects of our masculine natures.

"True masculinity—not the macho type—is needed for men to be strong enough to meet the feminine in themselves. For this they must find their own masculine face—not a face defined by women," suggests Bud Harris in Resurrecting the Unicorn. Harris then delves into the fairy tale, "Fyrtoiet," better known as "The Tinder Box" by Hans Christian Andersen, where an "Elemental Blueprint for Developing Masculinity" is extracted from the symbolic metaphors of this wise old tale.

Perhaps it’s time to pick up where Robert Bly's Iron John and Sam Keen's Fire in the Belly left off in the last part of the 20th century. If you're ready to explore and claim an 'authentic' masculinity from a place that calls for a great deal of courage, where truth, values, and integrity are defined from within, not by antiquated beliefs or pop-culture, then Bud Harris' Resurrecting the Unicorn is certainly worthy of your time and attention.

Resurrecting the Unicorn: Masculinity in the 21st Century, ISBN 978-0-9810344-0-9 is available from the publisher, Fisher King Press by calling 1-831-238-7799. This timely publication is also available from your local bookstore and from a host of online booksellers.

Mel Mathews' book reviews have appeared in many syndicated publications. He is the author of the Malcolm Clay Trilogy, a series of novels that portray a man’s struggles as he goes against the grains of his upbringings and emerges as a renewed man who is guided by his own inner truth and hard-won wisdom. Learn more about this reviewer and his publications at: www.melmathews.com

Permission to reprint this article is granted.

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