Why I Do Men’s Work
By Steve Fine
Two words capture the essence of what I feel happens when men come together with the shared agreement that “Work” will be done, that we have come together with intention and a purpose.
Namaste is a Hindu term which means “the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you.”
Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It can be translated as, “I am because we are.”
These mean to greet a man and feel joy boil up within as you reach out for a hug. As you look into his eyes and see him deeply. As the sacred within you recognizes and embraces the sacred within the man whose hands and body you grasp and hug.
Many new men did I greet at Awaken, with hardy handshakes and a sincere question of, “Where are you from?” Recognizing that our connection is true, meaningful, and important to who I am, to who we are. Ubuntu!
A man I have known for many years, although our conversations have totaled less than ten—but he knows me, and I know him. Moments after we greet one another, with nothing to hide, nothing to pretend, he shares. He is in a period of grief. His heart opens as he tells me of a love found and a love lost, of joy and sorrow and death. He places his heart in my hands, and I join him with my own tears and sadness.
What do I do with such? How do I accept this honor? This privilege? This trust? Words fall short, but some stumble out.
I listen as a man shares a story that he hasn’t told in years, if ever. Stories of triumph and tales of loss. He speaks, knowing that his words will be heard, and they are safe. He speaks, knowing that he is not being judged, measured, or evaluated. He speaks slowly at first, looking for words that he may never have spoken.
He speaks, and his story stirs up emotions and memories within me. I hear his pain and share in his laughter. When I speak, I know he will listen, that my words will be heard and held trustingly.
Words become pointless as I stare into the eyes of a man I have known only briefly, but deeply. A man who shared his stories, his anger, his fear. Staring deeply, into a depth that fills my soul, he tells me I am beautiful, and I tell him I love him.
I see men playing, moving with practiced steps as they have come to know their bodies and embrace all that is. Others awkwardly discover that their arms and legs are capable of so much that has been stifled and repressed in the name of what is acceptable and proper. Silliness rules as the body worships in gyrations of freedom and joy. Spirit is released in the physical, pouring out in wonder, tossing off all conformity and conventionality.
We eat together. Across a crowded table we break bread, tease one another, joke, and laugh. We speak of life and experiences, what has brought us here, the place we belong. A place we have always belonged and only recently came home to.
The stairs are too many, and the food is institutional. The weather is chilly, and the nights are cold. The drive was long and the tuition steep. I’m not sure why I came and what I received.
Yet, the ride home makes it clear as I visualize the faces and rehear the words of the men who lifted me up by their stories, called me brother, and held open my heart.
Steve Fine is an initiated Illuman man (Minnesota MROP, 2013) and an active member and past facilitator of his Council circle in Wisconsin.