Letters

Letters 04-14-14

Benishek Inching

Regarding “Benishek No Environmentalist” I agree with Mr. Powell’s letter to the editor/ opinion of Congressman Dan Benishek’s poor environmental record and his penchant for putting corporate interests ahead of his constituents’...

Climate Change Warning

Currently there are three assaults on climate change. The first is on the integrity of the scientists who support human activity in climate change. Second is that humans are not capable of affecting the climate...

Fed Up About Roads

It has gotten to the point where I cringe when I have to drive around this area. There are areas in Traverse City that look like a war zone. When you have to spend more time viewing potholes instead on concentrating on the road, accidents are bound to happen...

Don’t Blame the IRS

I have not heard much about the reason for the IRS getting itself entangled with the scrutiny of certain conservative 501(c) groups (not for profit) seeking tax exemption. Groups seeking tax relief must be organizations that are operated “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”


Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Journey into manhood
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Journey into manhood

Nathan Wildman - September 6th, 2007
I don’t know when exactly it was that I became a man -- I just know that at the age of 27, I have become one. Like so many men and boys in our culture, my transition into adulthood is blurred. With roughly 50% of marriages ending in divorce and a growing number of fatherless children being raised, there is a lack of a Rite of Passage into manhood for most of us. Instead, we are left to figure it out for ourselves. Some of us look for milestones to tell us when we’re men; for example: graduation, driver’s license, sexual maturity, the drinking age, buying your first house, marriage, etc.

I have gone through each of these “Rites” and cannot tell you which one of these defined it. Yet I know that I am a man. This revelation of my manhood came to me the other day. I was just standing there watching my three-year-old princess run laps around the cul-de-sac at the end of our neighborhood, when BAM! It fell on me heavily. You are a man Nathan. The idea stuck with me -- I am. But when did it happen?


Rites of Passage
Many cultures still have their Ritual Rite of Passage into manhood intact. I read an article once about a group of high school boys who were going to Africa to participate in the Ghanaian “into the bush” rite of passage. This sounds like a great idea, except that in 2000 two boys died and 50 others were hospitalized in Sebokeng (a town near Johannesburg) after this ritual. What kind of permission slip did the parents sign for that field trip? The boys would be joining the Xhosa people of Kwamagxaki, South Africa, for three weeks of seclusion in the bush followed by circumcision by a non-certified bush doctor or rookie leader. Often, this is done using the same knife, handed down from past generations, without cleaning it in between each boy. Not surprisingly, this leads to infections and complications, often resulting in the loss of the penis or death.
Also in East Africa, the Maasai tribe’s boys give away their childhood possessions. Their hair is shaved and replaced with ashes. They wrap themselves in black cloth and begin a complex initiation. During a hunt they must find many feathers from different birds to make a big headdress. This nest is a symbol of rebirth, and the new hair growing is the hair of a man. The head is blessed by elders using an elixer of water, milk, and honey and encased in thick red paint. Then the hair is made into dreadlocks.
I was also told about an old Cherokee legend of a youth’s Rite of Passage. The father takes him out into the wilderness, blindfolds him, and leaves him alone sitting on a stump. He is required to sit still and not cry out for help until sunrise. The young boy is naturally terrified -- he can hear all sorts of noises around him -- some wild beast might come around and hurt him. At last the night is over and he is a man. The boy removes his blindfold only to see that his father was there watching him all night, protecting him from harm.

Where Are We Today?
These rituals are nothing like the few scattered Rites of Passage that we have in our culture. A contributing factor of the lack of transitional rituals may be the lack of masculine influence and mentorship in today’s young boys. For the most part, men are not expected to fulfill the need of a boy’s confirmation of his manhood. Yet, not all American men have given up on this important event. I have been to one ceremony that included men from the church who were involved in the lives of boys. There were speeches, parable life lesson activities, and gifts. The boys leave ready to grow into manhood, in theory at least.

When I was a child, I remember friends telling me about a ritual that would happen around age 18 or before leaving the home to go to college. The boy would be taken hunting, given his own gun and attempt to “bag” his first deer. He must wait and wait, no video games or Mtv, until he kills one or until deer season is over. If he shoots one he then will have to cut out the heart and eat it raw and pumping, (at least a bite) and drink a little blood; then he must skin and process the deer. I have been told that this is an ancient tradition passed down from Native American tribes.

What’s the Point?
So what’s the point of all this? Is it just to hack up our private parts and
cover ourselves in dirt and blood,
and eat things we maybe shouldn’t eat? And then when it’s all over we’ve magically become men?
No, it’s not even important what the ritual involves, just that there is one. The point is, after the ritual, what has changed is the boy’s perception of himself. If he feels like a man, he’ll begin to act like one. Also, the fact that this is a public event will change the way everyone else sees him too. If he is pronounced a man by other men, then he is one.
In this light, it’s pretty evident why so many cultures continue to pass down these rituals from generation to generation. Maybe as men, it’s time for us to start new Rites of Passage. It doesn’t have to be dangerous or bloody, just… something.

Nathan Wildman is a writer from Traverse City.
 
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