long way round

Becoming a Man

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The ancient Hawai'ians had a certain way of transferring their way of life from one generation to the next. The men, who were warriors, were tasked to mold and shape their young boys into future warriors. As much as Hawai'i was about the friendly and warm aloha spirit and still is today, it was also a place where survival was essential and conflict between other islands of Polynesia a reality. In short, the older warrior men had to make boys into men and used the island to do it.

An older warrior would often take his young boys out to sea in his canoe, traveling to neighboring islands regularly. Many times, he will do this at night, teaching the young ones how to recognize constellations and swell patterns. After years of taking such trips, as far away as Samoa and perhaps even to what is now known as New Zealand, with nothing but stars in the sky and tidal patterns of the ocean, these young boys would grow up to be expert navigators, tough enough to survive in the high seas for long periods of time.

Meanwhile back on land, older warriors would take their young boys on hunting expeditions, in search of the elusive wild boar in the jungle, one that must be captured at least every year for the annual luau, or celebration of the harvest. They would learn to understand the land, the habitat of the animals, and to become a hunter among the beasts.

Often the rite of passage for boys in becoming men would culminate with a dive off a cliff from 25 feet above. This dive, particularly the spot off the southern tip of the small island of Lanai, would require a running start to clear away from the rocky area below that when not taken properly, can lead to one's fatal demise.

These boys of Hawai'i, through their warrior fathers, learned all that was required to become men. They became masters of the  seas, amassed bravery in the midst of the life threatening cliff, and became providers of food and shelter with their wits, guile, and skill with a spear.

Today, the ritual of manhood is all but lost. The bravery, the honor, and the life skills learned are seldom passed on from father to son. At least, that was the case for me. My father, like many others before him, did not understand the gravity of taking responsibility for one's family, nor the courage it takes to face one's inner demons. In his folly he mistakenly considered retreating from his wife and kids as the honorable thing to do. Hence like many of my generation, I grew up with an absent father, relating to Luke Skywalker's daddy issues with Vader, and mistakenly understanding that being a man meant treating women loosely while wielding a killer smile along with a Walter PPK in a tux. Obviously these were not the same as the boys of Hawai'i.

No wonder I yearn to jump off a cliff into the deep blue sea and scale the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. I want someone to show me how to track an animal by it's prints and sleep in the wild with nothing but a rock for a pillow and stars for a blanket. I can buy my own car and drive across the country from Michigan to California, pack my bags and head out on an adventure in Ghana and India, and drink as many Guinnesses as anyone else, yet I'd be hard pressed to say that  these things make me a man.

In the church, many have told me that "God is my father now" and that manhood is about "getting on your knees." Being a man meant praying a lot, being faithful in attending the myriad of events put on by the church, and learning responsibility by taking on more things to do and accomplishing them successfully.

I have believed all of these things and done all of them to the tee and yet after 10 years of doing such I don't feel I am a man in the same vein as those who came before me in ancient times, like Abraham, Samson and David.  To this day, I'm still not sure what to think of the phrase "God is my father". I understand it cognitively and can appreciate the logical reasoning behind it but often see that it cannot be accepted unless it is taken with what is called "a leap of faith" or "blind faith". In this modern era, blind faith seems so… antiquated.

So now I'm up to my own devices, in search of that elusive idea of "becoming a man." An ancient lore buried deep in the earth with our predecessors, where pop culture and Christian culture both don't have a clue as to what it is. Maybe this is just me saying I need another trip to Hawai'i.

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Written by shindz

October 26, 2010 at 4:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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