Blaise Pascal, Pensees:
“What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe… Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness!”
There are a number of reasons I find ancient stories valuable tools in teaching and conversing about meaningful matters, one is the rawness of masculinity portrayed. When working with greek mythology, we see men displayed in their complex and often chaotic natures. The heroes and gods are a mixture of majestic and malevolent, one moment you are awed by virtue and in the next, villainy.
As egocentric story readers most of us gravitate towards seeing ourselves in the righteous moments but tend to sidestep the unrighteous but in Greek stories, both are presented in shocking displays of heroism and horror.
I find when handled purposefully, the myths make room for men to contemplate the dark and light of human nature. In the mirror of these stories they can see themselves and such insight, can help foster a confessional culture. Men see themselves more clearly when exposed and guided in interactive, conversational engagement with the themes presented. Men end up telling their own stories and as a result, men become closer to one another and build a community of care that works towards discovering wisdom together.
Watching and gently guiding the emerging dialogue and sometimes even debate, provides for rich and meaningful conversations. I know not all men are particularly interested in philosophy or theology, but when such matters are woven together in a memorable tale, I find they start chasing the rabbit. There’s always the issue of rabbit trails but with time and focused guidance, a feast of minds and hearts can be enjoyed.
In our last gathering we discussed the story of Icarus http://bit.ly/1H4Lytv, below are some of the conversation prompts that guided our discussion.
Points to Ponder:
-Do you have a wise father?
-Has the marriage of your father brought blessing or curse into your life?
-Do you have any ‘minotaurs’ in your family as a result of your father or mother?
-What prisons have your been locked up within due to the failures of your fathers?
-Have you ever pushed someone off the ‘cliff’ due to jealousy, ambition or pride?
-Have you taken any death defying leaps in your life? What was the outcome?
-Have you gone the way of Icarus or Deadalus?
-Have you witness the scalding death of your personal Minos but found no peace?
-Do you make decisions in your life based on your own conscience and convictions?
-How do you process your grief?
Through myths I seek to build a bridge from a disengaged, distracted, dull or disillusioned mental life to an interested, attentive, and potentially curious seeker of the sacredness of life. Moving men from just consuming entertainment to contemplating the most meaningful matters within ancient stories cultivates a fertile ground of heart and mind for truth, goodness and beauty to grow.
I hope the men will capture a greater vision of who they can be, a more honest evaluation of who they are and become more open to living an examined and active life.