July 18, 2018

The Other Thailand Rescue Story

The 12 young boys and the coach of the Thai Wild Boars soccer team, once trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks, are out of the hospital. They are finally going home to loving and tearful families. Like myself, probably you, and the rest of the world, we were all completely captured by this dramatic rescue story and it's very happy ending. I won't repeat the many compelling details of the historic and heroic tale. But I want to suggest that beyond the story about the boys, there is another story just behind the lead. A story I feel accounts for some of its power to capture and hold the world's attention.

That other story is a tale about what I call "men's work." It's about men, who on hearing the call to save the boys, came in droves from all over the world. It's about how all those adult male warriors braved unimaginable dangers and suffering to save the lost young guys. It's really an ancient story about how, down through the ages, when the boys were in danger of being lost to their community, the men came for them. While the Thailand cave rescue is a slightly different narrative, and though we haven't heard this story so profoundly demonstrated in recent times, this is a very old tale.

It's really an ancient story...

In the old days, in almost all cultures all across the world, when the power of testosterone and young male adolescence was changing the young men in dangerous ways, something had to be done. When the boys were getting in trouble, creating chaos in the villages, and challenging the authority of the adults around them, the men came to get the fledgling males. They took the boys away to man's world and repeated rituals and lessons to teach the boys what it means to be a man and help them understand their responsibility to their community. In doing so, the men were civilizing the hatchling males, and, in the process, saving both the boys and their culture's way of life.

I have participated in many different Rites of Passage experiences built on this ancient template. What I know to be true is that this work, men's work, is hardwired into all males. In these passage experiences, without too much training, what I might call the maleness of the dance takes over. Intuitively, men, Elders, and young men all seem to know their place in the sacred drama. The result is always a moving and positive experience for

They were just boys in a pack heading out
on a great young guy adventure
. . . when they got unlucky.

To be clear, the Thai Wild Boars guys were not out of control adolescent males. They were just boys in a pack heading out on a great young guy adventure . . . when they got unlucky. They were at an age where they were beginning to test themselves, on the soccer field or taking risks in a cave. The fates conspired to set up this story of the men coming to save the boys for us all to watch.

I'll not go on here about the countless young males still today who are "trapped" in circumstances that threaten their lives. Boys who today also need the men to show up because they need rescuing. I've often written here about the loud and seemingly unending call for the men in our communities to heroically step into action on their behalf. I think the fact that this call is NOT being answered in so many communities today is another reason the Thailand rescue was so compelling. We all know all so many of our boys are waiting for the men to arrive. It was beautiful to see it played out so dramatically.

At this moment I simply want to honor all the men who heard the call to action in Thailand and around the world, and then showed up. Each of those men who came contributed what they could to the rescue. Especially 38 year-old Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan, the Thai navy seal who gave his life doing his part to save the boys. Thank you all for giving so much of yourselves and for being such great role models.

The story of the boys rescue, and how relentless and selfless the men who saved them were, fills me with hope. Yet other boys are still waiting and there is still much men's work to do.

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