“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14
“I am not into all that “manly stuff” you guys do at ManCamp. What’s the deal with the bow and arrows, throwing axes, Bull whips and throwing yourself down rock water slides etc?
Let me explain a few reasons behind such activities.
I try to pick various ‘stand alone-pick up when you want to’ activities that almost any man with a little practice can do, no matter their age or fitness level. Most people can throw a horseshoe.
I like to expose guys to things they may have never had a chance to do. These days the activities we look upon as odd, were normal parts of life for men in the past.
Hiking, boating, hunting skills, camping, cooking over flame, chopping wood and building fires used to be part of daily life. There’s something revitalizing about getting out of one’s normal routine of doing things. Seeing or doing normal activities a little differently, opens up new thoughts, feelings and abilities, no matter how small. Many men are stuck in patterns of thought and deed that they need help getting free from. They need fresh perspectives, voices and experiences to push them out of the soul numbing routines that we often allow to keep us from growing.
I was watching a guy at camp chopping wood with a massive maul. He was physically fit as a Spartan but some of the wood brought up to camp was pretty green or full of knots and was very difficult to split. Watching this man throw every fiber of his beastliness into hammering at that wood was almost like viewing art. But as I watched him, I said out loud to those around the fire, that “Chopping wood is a good way to drive out our demons.” All men are fighting some battle and sometimes it’s hard to know where to throw the punches. Wood takes them all.
There’s a grace that can be discovered hidden in physical exertion. The mind and heart can unburden themselves in a manner that few things can touch. Many people can attest to the moment when one finds themselves weeping at the height of some extreme activity. It’s like an inner massage and some of the body’s hormones are released and you are flooded with a visceral high and needed release. It can be healing. We all are full of stress and there’s many who have few outlet to release that pent up poison. We need to find ways to exorcise it in a manner that is healthy. Instead too many men medicate themselves instead and end up creating more problems on top of the issues they already have. It’s a cycle that is killing us, literally.
I believe there’s a ministry of life found in being outdoors. We are made of earth, wind, water and fire and being reunited with those elements has a restoring and revitalizing power.
Breathing in clean, crisp mountain air as we hike up stream is energizing, even in it’s exertion. We breathe so shallow and rarely in a manner that our body truly needs. We gasp little breaths that reflect the cramped, hunched over desk life that most of us live. We are mentally and emotionally exhausted but rarely go to bed physically exhausted. At camp, men do.
There’s an awakening of acute feeling that comes when you plunge into the icy waters that flow out of the mountains. It’s more than the freezing numb, it’s about feeling fully alive. Every nerve stands up! It’s a shock treatment to the common comatose existence.
Many men are desperate to feel anything anymore. Life sucks the soul out of them and if not handled well, the mundane of a good and right life can become drudgery. Men start looking for something to spark their blood, to fire their mind and make their heart pump fast again. This can lead to illicit and dangerous activities as men search for anything to stimulate their flatline lives. Men need other men to show them how to find ways to reconnect with the primal side of themselves, without letting go of their civilized commitments and convictions.
There is something deeply meditative and restoring about building, lighting, feeling and watching a fire. We are created full of electrical impulses that flash throughout our physical bodies. Our metabolism is burning within us, we are walking furnaces. A manly life is one that sits at the fires of higher things and rekindles himself in the temple of his soul. Many a man has been launched on a new adventure or found the strength to maintain his own course around a fire as he listens to the tales and trails of other men.
All men need to come more alive, need to see stuff burn up and to learn the wisdom of living life close to that line between heat and burn. Many men have been scorched by unrestrained passion and in some circles they have come to believe that the eradication of passion is somehow the path to moral sanity. Self-hate gets sushi rolled in sanctimonious biblicism and “severe treatment of the body”(Colossians 2:23) is presented as the way to self-mastery. Men are not angels, and they shouldn’t live like demons, becoming a good man isn’t found in “don’t touch, don’t taste” (Col. 2:16-22). Healthy spirituality is found in Christ, not a menu of pre-approved ‘dos and don’t.’ Too many men have surended the fire of freedom and liberty for a form of religious slavery. Fire is dangerous and can burn one’s house or life down or but it can also send you to the moon! Men need to be trained by word, deed and example on how to be civilized beasts in this hyper-paranoid and suffocating paternal era.
Men are made of dirt. When is the last time you got dirty, touched earth, stone, sand, or wood? When have you last feasted on that which has fed or grown from the field? Too many men live lives of painfully predictable pre-packaged personhood. Everything is weighed, measured, judged and handled by nervous Nelly’s throwing warning labels on everything we touch! We won’t live forever and many of us have died already! Stop living life like you need to be covered in bubble wrap!
When you come to the top of the natural waterslide and you let go and feel gravity reach out and yank you down a slab of slightly smooth mountain granite covered with rushing river water, you’ll feel just how blissfully powerless you actually are! All your fantasise about control, security and predictability will be ripped from your hands as you speed forward frantically wondering how you are going to stop before cascading over the edge at the end of the slide!
I think many men need these experiences in their lives and these are the reasons I take men into the wild. I hope you will join us next year at ManCamp2019!