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What Aging Men Want - Guest Blog at Fierce With Age.com

What Aging Men Want

Men and women age differently - psychologically and spiritually. That shouldn't be a surprise; they do so many things differently. Remember Mars and Venus? Little boys like trucks, little girls like princesses. And so it is with aging. I offer this short blog as a gift of insight to women longing to understand their men's struggles and to men seeking a meaningful roadmap of the journey home.

At this time in history, women are finding their voices and their power. They are rising in leadership, standing up for justice and decency, and challenging the patriarchy's ages-old sexism. The spirituality of women is indeed "fierce with age," ripe with the wisdom, courage, creative inspiration, and morality of Athena. The world has been awaiting the return of the divine feminine ever since Goddess cultures thrived in our earliest civilizations.

Men are taking a different path - their emerging spirituality is now down and deep, drawn away from a warrior life in the outer world of quest and conquest into the fertile heart of darkness within, a journey of healing, renewal and implicit commitment to the coming spiritual marriage of opposites: spirit and matter, heaven and earth, masculine and feminine, stillness and dance, content and consciousness, part and whole. In this era of crossing paths, aging men long to put down their swords and retire their dualistic straitjackets of identity, competition and heroism.

But the hard news is this: men are having more difficulty with age and retirement than women. While there are many reasons for this, the most powerful one is our biology. Evolution has systematically selected men who achieve power and control to pass on their genes. In sum, we are as instinctually driven to competition and territoriality as wolves - just add language. Guys learn this lesson early as they find themselves competing for a place in the "Alpha Male" hierarchy of junior and senior high school, for Aphrodite and Cinderella in the world of sex and love, and for the spoils of work. Believe me, I'm not defending this order, but watching big time sports, glorified violence in movies (think James Bond!), and our tragic penchant for war as a solution to psychological problems, we see the destiny of biology everywhere. As someone said long ago, business is warfare. So it is that men go off to the war of adult life and stay there for decades.

When I was writing my book on The Odyssey as a parable of male aging (and trying to figure out why I was having so much trouble), I realized why it took Odysseus ten years to come home from the war - it's just not easy for men to exchange the warrior life for love. Among other things, Odysseus had to 1. Give up his habitual conquer-plunder behavior (The Raid on the Cicones), 2. Overcome the temptation to numb his angst with alcohol or drugs (The Land of the Lotus Eaters), 3. Surrender his heroic male self-sufficiency (The King of the Winds), 4. Come to terms with the feminine (Circe the Witch), 5. Face the reality of death (Descent into Hades), 6. Choose his real wife over the idealized feminine (Leaving Calypso), 7. Terminate a lifetime of warrior strivings still imprisoning his soul (Confronting the Suitors), 8. Reconcile with his wife after years of distance (Reunion with Penelope), 9. Accept the reality of old age (Visit with Laertes), and 10. Find holy ground (Ritual for the Gods). Without guidance, too many of us guys miss these growth tasks and fall instead into hidden depression. The men who came of age reading Iron John twenty-five years ago now need a new myth to bring them safely home form the war, and I believe Homer gave us that myth. And back to the point of the divine marriage, we discover that Homer also highlighted the profound guidance of the goddess Athena - Odysseus' spiritual companion - the divine feminine lighting his way home to love.

Retiring happily ever after is a dangerous fantasy. For men in particular, the journey of aging is rife with obstacles, dangers and distractions as Odysseus discovered. Moreover we have so little collective experience with the new and unprecedented longevity spread out before us. Sadly, the old culture of masculinity wants men to conquer age with exercise, nutrition, attitude, travel and more work. That's ok for a while, but it's not the deep journey of understanding and transformation we need and most guys eventually flounder with the old model. They say they are fine, but look closer and you will often see signs of depression, loneliness, fear and confusion. Men need a paradigm shift away from the one-sided warrior zeal of masculinity to the feminine call of love, home, friendship and spiritual union. We each embody both masculine and feminine potentials, aging is the call to rebalance them. Men don't grow wise just by getting old; rather we must do the inner work of aging to open the heart, grow the soul, and become the enlightened elders our family, community and world need. What aging men want is to come home from the war. It's time we began.

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