It was a serious hit for me the morning I heard of Anthony Bourdain’s demise. Ironically, I had just finished telling my wife of his story of how his amazing media career blew up from a lone article published in The New Yorker Magazine. Seconds after I relayed that story, she pulls up her Instagram and sees a picture of him — announcing his death.
It is never easy to lose a mentor. In 2016 I quit a successful 16-year Social Justice career in Los Angeles to travel the world as a writer, Creative Director, and Self-Care/Qigong Trainer for organizations worldwide. To take that risk took a lot of either bravery or, stupidity. Taking risks is easier if you see another soul do exactly what you want to do — and powerfully pull it off. That gives one courage. That example to me was Anthony Bourdain.
Personally and professionally, Anthony Bourdain gave me a lot of courage. I have wanted to travel the world for as long as I can recall. At 18 years old, I left home and completed a 4000-mile solo bicycle tour of the Western United States, focusing on peddling through the Native American Reservations. It was an amazing experience that changed my life. Next, I was planning another bicycle tour from Addis Abba, Ethiopia through the entire continent of Africa to Cape Town, South Africa.
Then, I became an unexpected young father. Then, I had 3 more sons on top of that. My traveling days were over for at least two decades. For those years I faithfully fulfilled my parental duties and raised them alive and in one piece to their coming of age.
Eventually, my grown sons began traveling the world on their own. They had initially turned me on to checking out Anthony Bourdain. They convinced their non-television watching Dad to tune in. “Dad, you would love his show. He is kind of crazy and sarcastic like you, and travels in exotic places eating all sorts of spicy food, and talks about politics.” After seeing some episodes of his shows and reading his books, I was hooked. I had found a mentor to a lifestyle I had always dreamed of.
Taking the plunge into being a self-employed global traveling writer (addressing health, history, social justice, and politics) is a raw act of faith. Yet, acts of faith and courage are also strengthened by others. By those who had the courage to pave a similar path before me. Those working-class guys who had been willing to take the risk.
Even Adults Learn Best by the Modelling of Mentors
I was modeling my life decisions (to some degree) upon what I had actually SEEN Anthony Bourdain do well — already. “Well, he is doing it and he is not dead yet,” I sometimes said. And, Now?
Losing a mentor sucks. It hurts. Not only feeling terrible for them and their families’ loss. It also gets you a stomach punch to your courage, seeing another (often better) man fall before you. This was not the first time a mentor of mine has fallen.
During my solo bicycle tour, two cultural/media mentors of mine passed while I was on the road. Bob Marley, who modelled a lifestyle of a bold social justice advocate using creativity as a weapon. And second, First Nations Elder and renowned Canadian actor, Chief Dan George, who did the same with his work. Knowing these warriors for good were down, made my days harder. It can make you feel very alone to lose a mentor. Even one you never met in 3D.
Men Need Positive Mentors
Growing up without a father leaves a deep void. Over my numerous years of working with thousands of young men who struggled with the same challenge, we learn secret tricks on learning to “be a man.” You “steal” lifestyle patterns from music, movies, cultural icons, historical icons, etc. to try to fulfill that missing void of not having a living male model in your life. I had become an expert on learning from mentors I had never personally met.
Anthony Bourdain was such a mentor to me in my adult life. Having focused my Bachelor’s Degree in Intercultural Studies, and having been a student of World History for years, I deeply respected his cross-cultural approach and analysis. It could be summarized in two words: “Openness” and “Humility.” Like two other cultural heroes of mine, Herodotus, and the great international journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski. Both of them are dead, and now, Anthony joins their ranks of my buried heroes.
Now What? Who Will Be the Mentors?
Towards the end of his life, Anthony spoke out strongly for the #Metoo movement and against powerful predators like Harvey Weinstein. I had focused most of my adult professional life in the battle against Gender-Based Violence. I deeply resonated with his indignation and anger at these pervasive institutional crimes of injustice. I guess in some ways; I could have been a mentor to him in that arena. I respected him using his platform to speak truth to power.
He had also recently been training in Jujitsu, and had won a competitive tournament for his age and weight division. As a 2nd Degree Blackbelt in Jujitsu and longtime martial arts instructor, I guess I could have mentored him in that. Mentors can learn from those they model for. I learned much more from my son’s and students over the years than they ever learned from me. Yet, I never personally met Anthony.
So Now What? Where Should Men Turn for Mentors?
I fought against crying the day I heard Anthony Bourdain was dead. Not that there is anything wrong with crying, it is healthy for men to mourn. But as a warrior, I was more angry than sad. I was incised that the “team” had taken a powerful hit like that. Regardless of the circumstances of a death, we lost a good man. A good warrior for humanity and justice. That hurts.
So I decided to honor his death by honoring his work and life. I too will write, speak out, utilize media and every tool I can get my hands on to make this world more humane, less violent, less prejudice. When my other hero’s like Malcolm, Martin, and Bob Marley passed, I always say, “They have been replaced by 10,000 more!” For every one struck down, 10,000 take their place.
I realize I need to be the mentor. I need to lead, and not just follow. I need to exercise demonstrable courage to fight for my right to my dreams. To fight alongside women and people of color for their right to achieve their dreams. Me, and many other sisters and brothers of every race, creed, and color will fill that gap. Take note Weinstein’s of this world: You had better prepare for a royal ass-kicking.
Previously published on FrankBlaney.com
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