Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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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