March 10, 2014

Masculine Gravity and the Guy's Hike

The last Man-Making Blog post described the work of two powerful man-makers, men who I claim have caught man-making fire. Another way I speak about that desire to be more and more involved with young men is "masculine gravity." It's a term that describes the mix of fun, pleasure, joy, laughter, and a powerful sense of rightness that works on men who spend some time in a pack of men and adolescent males.

HOW MASCULINE GRAVITY WORKS: After a very little time spent in a mixed-age guy-pack, a man quickly realizes the young dudes are not as scary as he thought they'd be, he learns the young guys like having them around, and that the time with these guys is really fun! In addition, a man will find all kinds of reminders of his adolescent years, for better and for worse. There is always the kid who reminds a man of the young lad he was as a teen, and the exchanges and behaviors of the young guys conjure up memories of his days in the boy pack. In that side-by-side way men make connections, a man may find a young guy hovering around him or asking him a question that starts a conversation. If a man responds to that invite, a connection is often made. If the hike or event is long enough a man is likely to hear young guy stories that will touch his heart with their unreserved and often familiar truths. All of these forces acting together create a feeling he's in the right place, he really is made for this work, and leaves him with a hunger for more. That's masculine gravity, and it always leaves a man feeling better about himself for the time spent.

. . . it always leaves a man feeling better
about himself for the time spent.

I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't feel that gravitational pull, and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't feel some form of pull or call to this work. So just FYI, this "force" is already working on you.

On a recent outing, I was actually able to see masculine gravity working as I watched a group of men ripen to man-making over the course of a five hour event.

Wasson Peak is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains. At the top, you get a 360 degree view of the whole Tucson basin. Hikers have to work to earn that view. On January 25th, the Desert Men's Council, a group I belong to, held their Annual Guy's Hike. On that day, a multi-generational tribe of almost 30 males, between the ages of 9 and 70 reached the summit.

It is always sweet for me to see how the guy-pack drama unfolds. In the pre-hike circle, it's usually the case that not everyone knows everyone else. So in the circle, we ask each male to say his name and what he's looking forward to in the experience. There's a little safety training, counting off by numbers, and then making a commitment to face the ordeal together. We agree to support each other and to all arrive together at the top.

Shortly after we head out, the young guys unconsciously begin to immediately sort themselves by age, personality type, and fitness level. The men will initially struggle to wrangle the pack, and then eventually yield to the overwhelming energy of the young males who take off up the trail. Also, as it always happens, the oldest alpha male in the boy-pack follows the leader's instructions and holds the young dudes back till the slower boys and men catch up. Waiting for those at the back of the pack is a challenge for the faster guys, and trying to step it up and not be the caboose is a challenge for the slower guys. As a result of these demands and sacrifices, somewhere along the way up the mountain, we become a true band of brothers. Along the way, we explored a long wash, scrambled over huge boulders, and found ancient petroglyphs on the walls. We passed fenced-off entrances to old mines and had spectacular vistas all the way.

At the top there was relief, awe at the vista, and lots of congratulations all around. The group photo really says it all. All males, pulled together in a common victory. The way down was quieter as the fatigue set in, but we were welded together in a way, and the waiting and supporting each other got easier. It was a demanding five-hour round trip hike that ended with very tired bodies and many new friends and happy memories. Oh, the young guys reminded me they got awesome Facebook pictures and some serious bragging rights along the way.

In the check-out circle, everyone is asked to name a feeling as a highlight from the hike. I guess "tired" is a feeling because many claimed it, and even in that, we were on common ground. The majority of the check-out statements reflected how the experience had exceeded their expectations, that it was really a lot of fun, and that it was good to be outdoors and active and with a group of guys. Even being physically exhausted and with tired legs and sore feet, most of the young dudes said they wanted more, soon! There were four men who individually came up to me after the hike, thanked me, and said they, too, were interested additional events, our Rite of Passage weekends, and the other work of our Desert Men's Council group. It's all about masculine gravity.

Here is the link to just a few of the photos from the hike. These pictures only begin to tell the story of the perfect day, the laughs, new friends, physical effort, BIG vistas, and tired bodies at the end. If you look very closely, you can see the masculine gravity working, pulling the guys together, and pulling men toward man-making!

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