When my son Darshan was in nursery school I remember walking him there on one of those gorgeous days of Boston’s long-awaited spring. The hood was bumping and the hot cars blaring. I said “Darshan, can you hear that?” “Is that Puerto Rican music?” he asked. It was Hip Hop, so I said “no, but we were there from the beginning.” Today I wonder if I should have said yes, and if it was a mistake to limit Puerto Rican music to salsa and other Caribbean beats. (Don’t forget where reggaeton is from either).
If I’ve been taught to derive value, status and belonging from how much sex I can get and how much dominance I can wield, then it will make sense to let my soul’s longing recede.
But if I’m taught to listen to my soul, if I can learn to take my masculine drive and place it at the service of something that is truly good, something much bigger than just me or you, then freedom becomes possible. It is from here that a conscious masculinity can be born, that the work of atonement can flow, that we will cease to be a danger and remember what is good.
It’s my birthday! I’m already tearing up with all the love coming my way via text and social media. What a miracle it has been to be born into this Flow of Grace. I believe in seven year cycles, and I stepped into my 42nd year with great intention (and intensity!). It has been quite a year. A year of deep, inner, personal transformation.
The impulse to develop the Evolutionary Leadership Workshop was the desire for creative freedom. I work for institutional clients, the client is the convener and I’m invited in to design and facilitate the experience. It is beautiful work and I am privileged to do it. But it is work that demands compromise. The client has their own goals, their sense of what is possible and their own set of constraints.
I set out to create a space that was free of such compromise. I decided to try being the convener. And I developed a workshop where I could apply the very best of what I have learned in service of what I see as our highest purpose.
Intention. Connection. Experimentation. These are the tenets of the Evolutionary Leadership Workshop.
We live in a suicide economy. We are caught in a system of extraction that is decimating the planet and has the species on the fast track to an evolutionary crash.
We have a crisis of the imagination. In the words of Fredric Jameson, “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of [globalized, unbridled] capitalism.”
But ours is not a dark story. Ours is the story of evolution. And everywhere around the world people are daring to imagine something new. Everywhere we find people who hold the wisdom we were taught had been lost. Everywhere there are folks who are practicing, inventing, remembering, experimenting with better ways of being human together. And isn’t that what an economy is for?
Movements are not made by individuals.
Movements are definitely not made by men.
Our preference for simple stories seduces us into the myth of the charismatic leader.
If we don’t pay attention we will miss out on what is emerging RIGHT NOW as a new movement emerges from decentralized groups of people coming together to live our way into a new day.
All of this is true.
AND we can still celebrate the grace of the prophetic voices. The resonant voice of women of color like Adrienne Maree Brown is for me an example of that.
When I launched the Better Men Project I chose to focus on cisgender (term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth) heterosexual men in committed relationships. The intention was not to exclude other men, but to humbly begin the process based on the experience that I know. You have to start somewhere. And it is good to start with yourself.
My dear friend Felix Endara was generous enough to sign up for an interview anyway. Felix is a trans man. I had no idea until the moment of our interview. I have been working with Felix for years. It turned out to be the most powerful interview that I’ve had during this process.
Who better to speak to the redeeming aspects of masculinity than people who have had both experiences, the experience of being assigned female at birth and the experience of transitioning to life as a man. I write with Felix’s permission and with his eyes on these words.
We need to grow. To stop growing is to start dying. But the quest for achievement is not always about growth. It often is about wanting to become whole. It can be fueled by the idea that we are somehow not enough, and that happiness can only be found at some point in the future, when we become worthy of it. This is wrong.
This is a time of pain and self-reflection. Men in these interviews speak of the limits to our cultural idea of masculinity. They speak about having access to a limited range of emotion, of only being taught domination, or not always knowing how to speak to what we are feeling. These men are increasingly aware of the ways in which we have been crippled by patriarchy. Some make a direct connection between patriarchy, the climate crisis and our pillage of the earth.