Last weekend I attended a three day ‘Wild at Heart’ Bootcamp with John Eldridge and his team at Stanwell Tops, NSW. I was joined by over 400 other men from all over Australia and all over the world. Men came from USA, England, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
In the USA, one can only get into a Wild at Heart Bootcamp by random ballot, such is the demand.
I have been working in the men’s movement in Australia since 1981 but have never been in a gathering of over 400 men for three days in my whole life. Well, not since John Eldredge was in Australia in 2007. How therapeutic that was, and history in the making, in more ways than one.
What drew over 400 men, some from countries on the other side of the globe to the Wild at Heart Bootcamp in Australia? More importantly perhaps, what drew me?
John Eldridge’s book, ‘Wild at Heart’, www.ransomedheart.com has sold several million copies worldwide, since its release in 2001. It is still the number one book on male spirituality on Amazon today. One could argue that John Eldridge’s best-selling book is all about the journey to discover the secret of a man’s soul. John’s basic premise is that every man has:
1) To discover his heart
2) A wound to heal
3) A battle to fight
4) A beauty to rescue
5) An adventure to live
6) A spiritual journey to embark on
Perhaps it would be best to let John Eldridge tell it in his own words.
The way a man’s life unfolds nowadays tends to drive his heart into remote regions of the soul. Endless hours at a computer screen; selling shoes at the mall; meetings, memos, phone calls. The business world – where the majority of American and Australian men live and die – requires a man to be efficient and punctual.
Corporate policies and procedures are designed with one aim: to harness a man to the plough and make him produce. But the soul refuses to be harnessed; it knows nothing of Day Timers and deadlines and P&L statements. The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life.
As DH Lawrence said, “I am not a mechanism.” A man needs to feel the rhythms of the earth; he needs to have in hand something real – the tiller of a boat, a set of reins, the roughness of rope, or simply a shovel. Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?
Society at large can’t make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men.
Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly’s parlour.
“Where are all the real men?” is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world. How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners? . . .
As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, “Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man – they are called priests,; the university wants a domesticated man – they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a . . . sanitised, hairless, shallow man.”
It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man’s heart. Men know it too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing.
They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can’t get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.
Go on a journey to find your heart. Spend some time alone. The bush is always good. The wilder the better. The sea can also be wild. Sit still for a while and ask the question, “What makes my heart sing?” Write down the answers and your prayers in a book and let it be a record of your journey. The more you can live life out of your heart, the happier you will be. As Sting sings, “We are spirits in a material world.”
Yours for being spiritually alive