Wisdom of the Elders

Both elders and our youth can inspire, says Paddy Murray, and all men need to be able to see themselves as inspiring.

“Thank goodness they don’t,” said Jim.  It was in response to an onlooker’s statement: “‘They don’t make steel like they used to.” It was at a country fair, at one of Jim’s many blacksmithing demonstrations. Jim was my blacksmithing teacher and a source of much wisdom. Later, he told me, “I get sick of men saying that. The truth is, that old steel was pretty crap and modern steel is much better.”

“Thank goodness they don’t” is one of those sayings that has stuck around for me. So when I hear people say the young generation of today is not as good as those gone buy it comes back to me. My experience of the younger generation is a positive one—they are better equipped to face the future than my generation.

One story says it all for me. I was in a large tent at a father and son initiation event run by Pathways in Australia. My son Zac, 14 years, was with me. Dennis, the 45 year old cook at the camp, had come to tell the boys a story. He told about being gay in a country town and not being able to tell his family. It was only in his late twenties that he plucked up the courage at a family dinner to tell them that he was gay. He told the boys about how frightened he had been of his father’s possible response.

One of the kids stood up and said that he was proud of Dennis for his courage to tell such a moving story to a bunch of youngsters and their dads, who were strangers. All the boys spontaneously stood up clapping and cheering Dennis. I was so proud of those boys for demonstrating acceptance, love and courage. I have other stories that for me generate faith in our young men; it is not a one-off or rare event.

I am a 66 year old man. Much more is expected of men now than thirty years ago. In my experience, the subject has grown as I’ve aged to include issues like integrity, ethics, authenticity, and honesty.Men feel more social pride in being male and having a sense of what being a good male is about, including the importance of being a great dad.

The 1980s was a time of confusion for men, very much a fearful reaction to the rising social phenomena of feminism. There was much dodging the issue of men being accountable and grieving at the demise of masculinity as we knew it. A difficult time for many of us, pushing us to explore, reflect, and redefine ourselves.

For the future of manhood, let’s hope that we never stop challenging men and being forced to redefine ourselves. Let’s do better than that: let’s make sure that we never again settle on a fixed sense of what it is to be a man.

In a way, to become the male that society needs, we need to forget our ideas of what those identities require, and to simply be authentically ourselves. I was asked once by a young psychologist, “Are you a Buddhist psychotherapist?” I replied, “No, I am a Buddhist who is a therapist.” Likewise, I am a human first and a male second. My maleness, penis, associated hormones, and brain structure are just part of the kit that is with  me on my wondrous journey through life. Following my passions, being authentic, ethical, and discovering my deeper reality and connection to all things, not being stuck on any identity, is who I am, and my future. We know that humanity has many different types of masculine and feminine, men and women. Being true to whatever that is for each of us is the way forward.

At the same time that I admire the youth for their abilities to face the future, I look back and see how important older men are as role models for our younger men. How important it is for us to keep being our passionate and courageous selves. How important it is to support and inspire men of all ages.
My current focus is researching men’s groups as a vehicle of support and growth. I recently started a group with the aim of training men in leadership and facilitation skills for groups. “In The Cave” is a blog I am developing as a vehicle for a wide range of resources on men’s groups. I love to write and express myself and the blog will be a way for me to explore my passions. Videos of men talking about a variety of issues will be a large part of the content, as I find these presentations more personal, and moving beyond text.

I recently retired from being a volunteer Buddhist chaplain after six years running men’s groups in in a maximum security prison, using Buddhist philosophy and meditation as a framework. Our men in prison are a much neglected group. I would like to see the men’s movement become more active in prisons.

The problem of violence and abuse among Aboriginal Australian men, especially in remote country areas is another interest of mine. I and a few other men are trying to negotiate with the government to try some of the men’s group approach in a remote town with lots of violence. It might not get legs, as it is seen as radical, but it is about giving it a go, to keep on trying, knowing that sooner or later will see the success of an idea whose time has come. I hope that others witnessing the attempt will be inspired to follow their own passions.

 

—Photo: kewl/Flickr

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About Paddy Murray

Paddy is 68 yrs old and was born in Sydney, now living in the village of Bundanoon 2 hrs. south of Sydney. His early training was in economics and research followed by work in business and economic research. Getting off the tram to pick the daisies became his call and he started to explore a range of work and experiences. Among those include, country contracting, welding and blacksmithing, running small construction company and setting up and running a small artisan bakery. Later he branched into social projects setting up a large homeless men’s accommodation facility. He also assisted the Sisters of Mercy in establishing a large job creation and training project in Western Sydney. Next was training in counselling at University leading to a career in general and relationship counselling. He started to specialise in working with men around anger management, domestic violence prevention and returned soldiers with PTSD. During this time he worked one day a week as a Buddhist prison chaplain in a maximum security prison for six years. His main interest now is writing around social policy and counselling issues as well as tending his vege garden and spending lots of time in his well-equipped workshop

Comments

  1. I have nothing to share. There is nothing special about me at all. How could I possibly be inspiring? This isn’t a solution that’s going to be helpful for mediocre, boring drones like myself.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Bob-O: “I have nothing to share.”

      I respectfully disagree.
      Although I don’t know you, I think even “mediocre” people have something good to share. Remember that “mediocre”, or “average”, people are the majority (thanks to statistics ;) ).
      I think being “mediocre” means you have (or do) something good and something not-so-good (like most people, actually). Thus, you think your “bottom line” is around zero (some plus, some minus).
      But the good you do (or are) is different from the good of someone else: hence your own “good part” can be inspiring to someone else.

      Since we’re all different somehow, what is a given and just normal act to me, can be meaningful and uplifting to someone else.
      Maybe you don’t realize (yet) that you have your own gifts; maybe you don’t have around you people who can notice those gifts or aren’t able to express appreciation.
      This doesn’t mean those gifts aren’t there; it just means they aren’t acknowledged yet. Sometimes we have gold in our hands, but we think it’s just rocks.

      I believe that, unless you’re the worst and most negative person in the world (and that would make you someone “special”, not mediocre ;) ), you must have some positive, good, productive trait.
      Even the smallest act have the potential to create goodness.
      Being good doesn’t mean being special; being good means making others feel good, or better.
      Do you never ever make someone feel good? I dont think so. :)

  2. Paddy Murray says:

    Hi Bob-O Thank you for being an inspiration for Valter. Look what a wonderful response you inspired and I totally agree with him. A great sharing Valter.
    I think we all underestimate our capacity to inspire. I walk down to the newsagents to get the paper every morning, with my wonderful beagle Wilson. The school kids are hanging around to catch the bus. Often I pick up some trash, papers butts etc. I realised by doing that I am inspiring the kids – heh here is some old dude who cares enough to pick up trash, so modelling useful behaviour. Just the smallest of gestures can be an inspiration, a smile to the check out girl at the supermarket.
    Bob-O caring enough to make a response to my article is an inspiration, it inspired Valter.
    Just to express our helplessness, vulnerability or fragility to others is an inspiraton to them to own their own reality and to express it. Paddy

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      Yes Paddy, it’s so easy forgetting the importance of little things. Yet they can be life-changing.
      Some times, a little gesture like a kind word of a pat on the back, was enough to stop someone from committing suicide. How powerful! :shock:

      Bob, never forget that “Everybody need somebody” (as the Blues Brothers sang).
      You can choose to be that somebody; just look around you, and you’ll find someone you can give something to.

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