Do men really need one another? The answer seems to easily slip off the tongue in most conversations, a hearty “Yes!”, but upon closer observation, it seems men agree in principle but deny in practice. This interpersonal enigma plagues many circles of community, particularly the ones whose health depend on men being present, personable and vulnerable, like marriage, family and meaningful friendship or mentoring.
The Bible speaks to the principle that we seem to hold as true:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.
But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.
But how can one be warm alone?
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated,
but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.
Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Again, it’s a value we hold but a practice many ignore, even though many of our most revered stories speak to the principle and practice, like The Odyssey by Homer. “The Odyssey is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second-oldest extant work of Western literature; the Iliad is the oldest. Scholars believe the Odyssey was composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.”(Wikipedia)
If you read the first paragraph with these thoughts in mind, you can see that the issues are foundational to the male journey of life.
The Odyssey, by Homer (W.H.D. Rouse translation)
“This is the story of a man,
one who was never at a loss.
He had travelled far in the world,
after the sack of Troy, the virgin fortress;
he saw many cities of men and learnt their mind;
he endured many troubles and hardships
in the struggle to save his own life
and to bring back his men safe to their homes.
He did his best, but he could not save his companions.
For they perished of their own madness,
because they killed and ate the cattle of Hyperion the Sun-god,
and the god took care that they should never see home again.”
We are all on a journey of life, an odyssey of discovery, adventure, trial, peril, pleasure and glory. It’s a story that is meant to be both personal and communal, and one that will always impact others beyond our own experiences.
1. a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.
2: an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest an odyssey of self-discovery, a spiritual odyssey from disbelief to faith.
Our Odyssey will be transformational, for good or bad, depending on the type of men, we choose to be. Many men “perish of their own madness”, so we must not wallow in overly pious or progressive positivism. Epics are full of disaster, betrayal, apocalypse and adversaires, both earthly and heavenly. Many men are brought down by the hands of enemies or by their own. That reality, is one of the many reasons men need to find meaningful circles of community where the ‘fight & feast’ of life can be shared.
One of the most meaningful threads of work I attend to is ‘bringing men safe to their homes’ be it the eternal home, the home of heart, relationship or purpose. It’s often a difficult work because many men are more content to ‘eat the meat of sun-god Hyperion’ than attend to the needs of the soul. They want to ascend to the heights alone, feast instead of fight and find a banquet instead of a brotherhood. Too many men are willing to just sit and be served off the labor of other men than set a table for others. We can be content to read or listen to other men’s stories than live one worth retelling.
Like the rabble of men in book one of the Odyssey, we want to gorge and gobble on the goods of Odysseus’s house and desire the delights of another man’s wife without the courage or character to win a worthy Penelope ourselves. If men desire a life worth living, they must commit to an Odyssey of their own. They must hear the call of Athena for themselves, a call that will cause them to rise up from the table and take to the wild sea in search of the Father, so many have said is dead.
I challenge you as Athena challenged Telemachos: “My advice to you is this…get the best ship you can find, put twenty oarsmen aboard, go and find out about your father and why is he is long away.”
That is the sacred Odyssey and you cannot do it…alone.