Lyman is in his den. He’s sitting in his favorite chair. His father’s chair. Big and leathery. It makes him feel masculine just sitting in it. He thinks of pouring himself a drink, a scotch maybe. His dad drank in this chair. A scotch? he asks himself, do I want to get a little high. No. I’ll get sleepy, and I want to finish the new book I’ve been reading.
On his lap rests The Lover Within by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. It’s not what his dad would have been reading. His dad read books about the German general staff, Napoleon, and the Civil War. Warriors. Moore and Gillette have written about the warrior within, too. Lyman didn’t read that one. They also wrote about the magician and the king. Lyman read The King Within. Kings and Lovers, that’s what Lyman thinks about. King Arthur, Lancelot, John F. Kennedy, and D. H. Lawrence.
From the next room, Lyman can hear the CD playing. His wife and son are visiting grandma, so Lyman’s alone and play the stereo louder than usual. Indulging in the power of song, you know. He’s playing Patti Scialfa’s new disk.
I believe in all
all of love’s glory
and no one’s going to talk me down
I’m not afraid to stumble
baby, I can fall.
Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette are Jungian scholars, both of whom have greatly influenced men’s work, as it’s now called. The bubble of the “men’s movement” has burst, but still men across the country are thinking and working and asking questions like how do I show love to my wife and children? What kind of man will I be when I’m sixty? Will I still have a passion for life? Will my life mean anything after I retire? What is my bliss? Should I have an affair? Now that I’m divorced, will I simply keep dating women like my ex-wife? Can I quit drinking? Why do I eat so much? Why do I look like such a jerk when I dance? Where is God? These are the questions the Lover asks. Van Gogh asked them, Casanova did, too. So did Elvis and Jesus. All of them, all of us, trying to get back to the garden, the source of love and beauty.
Moore and Gillette believe that they have discovered the “hard wiring” of the masculine psyche. Deep down in every man, they say, lies the archetypes of the king, warrior, magician, and lover. Our lives simply reflect our ability to access these archetypes either healthfully or unhealthfully. This is what Lyman really likes about this book. Moore and Gillette not only explore the history of the archetype of the lover–a la Joseph Campbell, Jean Bolen, Robert A. Johnson–they also explore the shadow sides, the negative and dysfunctional sides of the lover. Not enough lover and you’re impotent, depressed, unappreciative. Too much lover and you’re an addict, manic, consumed by your own consumption. Will Lyman have a scotch? No.
The song changes. Patti sings
now I know
love ain’t no fairy tale
ain’t so pretty or so pure
there’s a train of unforgiveness
for things that came before
Two years ago, Lyman and David Kramer conducted a workshop at the first Woman Spirit Conference. Lyman was nervous. He and David were the only male presenters. What would it be like talking about men to an exclusively female audience? Let’s don’t be naive: women are angry at men. What if, Lyman worried, he became an easy target for male bashing? David read the Grimm’s fairy tale about the worn out dancing shoes and led a discussion about deepening men’s spiritual lives. Lyman read some poems, his and others, that he hoped would provide a counterpoint to David’s theme. Lyman ended with Robert Graves’ poem about male beauty and power “The Bird of Paradise,” which ends “She asked herself, ‘What did I do to awake such glory?'” Lyman talked about the magnificent beauty that lies in men’s souls that can be awakened–and not just by women. Men can awaken it in themselves, with their own native tenderness. The dozen or so women were attentive and engaged and raised many questions that Lyman wanted to talk about with David.
“The story that really hit me,” he said, “was the one by the woman whose husband ate a dozen hot dogs every night before going to bed. She obviously loves him, and wishes he wouldn’t stay up late eating. I was amazed that she wasn’t more angry.”
“Think of the grief she has because she can’t do a thing to change him.”
“And his grief over his lost potency that he gorges hot dogs, Jesus!”
“I hope he gets over it before she leaves him.”
“Or he has a heart attack, a real broken heart.”
“The real danger is to his soul.”
The Lover is the archetype of vivid, spontaneous, channeled Libido. Given form by the other mature masculine archetypes, the Lover makes the superabundant energy of Libido available to a man’s psyche. Like the engorged phallus that is his symbol, the Lover allows the life-force to drive the psyche upward into the light of day. The Lover luxuriates eternally in the fantastic domain of the collective unconscious. . . . Through the energies of the Lover, the conscious mind encounters the personal and collective unconscious (Moore and Gillette, page 135).
Lyman is sitting on the floor in one of the offices at the Austin Men’s Center. He looks around the room at the other ten men, his friends and intimates. Their faces are full of compassion and apprehension. James is talking about his ex-wife. We know James has difficulty talking about her. But today he saw her in Whole Foods and she said something that she had always said in their marriage, something like “Well, we all know how critical you are.” And he had retreated and taken the wound. Now he wasn’t retreating, “Fuck you. You don’t know me. How dare you categorize me, bitch! Fuck you! Fuck you!” He grabs a towel that we pass around when we get angry. James twists it, pulls at it, ties it into knots, and curses. Finally he begins to cry. His shoulders shake. The pain in his stomach is so great he pulls his knees up to his chest. When he ceases crying, he says, “I loved her so much, but I could never tell her in a way that she could understand. I was silent. But I’m learning. I’m learning.”
Somewhere Patti Scialfa sings to her husband, Bruce Springstein.
just like a Spanish dancer I
throw my roses down for him
across these beds of darkness he
opens his arms and gathers them in
Lyman thinks about that scotch. Spirits that’s what they are. Spirits in a bottle. The better to see you with, my love. No.
His office door is shut. Lyman has stopped in to pick up some editing work Bill has for his wife. They’ve know each other for many years, have seen each come and go in various jobs. Now Bill, at 56, works for the state and occasionally passes on freelance work to Sharon. Lyman feels close to Bill. Their experiences have been similar. Small town Texas, fundamentalism, the university, attempts at entrepreneurship. In their love, Bill and his partner created a business, an antique shop, that prospered for a couple of years; Lyman, Sharon and John Lee had created MAN! magazine, which almost survived the latest recession. Bill and Lyman have both lost a product and wellspring of their commitment and love. Bill’s partner is ill. Recently, he’s been hospitalized several times. Lyman notices for the first time that Bill doesn’t have a single photograph in his office.
“I think I might get the loan I’ve been talking about. And then we’ll be able–finally–to remodel the house. I keep thinking that if we had a project at home. . . this is the kind of thing he loves. Envisioning, planning, decorating, creating. He’s so talented. He has so many ideas. He’s so daring.”
“I know,” Lyman said, not knowing what to say. “What do you plan for the bedroom?”
The mature masculine archetype of the Lover moves from an eternal into a finite world through a variety of channels. He has a place in every man’s life, and we have all had experience with him. But certain occupations seem particularly likely to draw upon the Lover’s energies. At the center of the Garden of Delight, the Lover is bursting with images, symbols, dreams, and visions, and an ultimate ecstasy beyond words. From the Tree of Life he plucks the fruit of generativity and tosses it over the Wall of Paradise to mortal poets, prophets, mystics, artists, and connoisseurs, who eagerly await his gifts (Moore and Gillette, page 111).
Lyman listens as Joseph reads his essay. Joseph is a good community college student. Lyman enjoys having him in class. More than others, Joseph seems to glimpse that there’s a larger world beyond the world of his parents. He aches for it. Still Joseph, at nineteen, has always impressed Lyman as being more boy than man. He has an innocence about him. His smile says, “Golly, gee wiz,” not “Yeah, I’ve been there, too.”
Joseph is writing about his girlfriends. He’s had two, well, three. The second he dated, and apparently was intimate with, until he learned she danced topless at a men’s club. “What would you have done, Mr. Grant? I couldn’t trust her anymore.” Lyman made a mistake and decided not to tell Joseph what he would have done. Joseph’s third girlfriend–his true love, though he doesn’t call her that–was not really a girlfriend. A co-worker about his age, she listened to Joseph, told him her secrets and dreams, then married another boy and moved out of town. She and Joseph still talk by phone, write letters, tell each other their secrets. For some reason, this time Joseph doesn’t ask Lyman what he would do.
Bruce Springstein sings,
Now I only got a little time
So if you’re gonna change your mind
Then shout out what you’re thinking of
If what you’re thinkin’ of is love
I want it all or nothin’ at all
I want to give it all or nothin’ at all
“Hey, Frank, what’s up?”
Frank is a field representative for a college textbook company. Lyman is using one of his texts, and Frank has called to see if there is anything he or the company can get for him. Nothing that Lyman can think of now, so they chat awhile. In his late thirties, Frank’s married with two children. During the school year he travels a lot, so in the summer he pampers them, takes them to all the amusement parks, goes camping. His wife is a professional also, so often he and the kids take off on their own. Lyman likes the contradictions he sees in Frank. He’s soft spoken and gentle but wears a full beard, trimmed but edging toward grizzly. He’s in good shape and exercises regularly, but to Lyman he seems a bit frail. The kind of guy that in grade school Lyman would not wrestle for fear of hurting him. That’s why Lyman didn’t know what to think when he announced he had just read The Bridges of Madison County. “Stayed up late. Couldn’t put it down.”
“My wife just read it, too. You say you liked it? A guy can read it? She said I’d like it, but I don’t know. This character’s a middle-aged guy and an incredible lover, and has this short, powerful, love affair and he never has sex again. Sounds like a female fantasy to me.”
“You sound a little threatened, Lyman. But, it worked for me. And there’s more to it than that. It’s about the lack of passion and power and intimacy in our lives. The guy’s described as the last cowboy, so he’s kind of a lone wolf fighting the conformity of modern society.”
“That really speaks to you. I hear it in your voice.”
“Doesn’t it speak to you? I mean, I’m not complaining or anything, but the greatest risk I have in my life is whether the editors in New York will bring out some books I can sell. If it weren’t for the kids, I could shake things up.
“Maybe I don’t believe in true love,” Lyman said, not knowing why.
“Maybe you do, but are afraid.”
“I don’t know if I can love someone so much that I would be happier being alone than being with someone else.”
Because he can love and care for himself deeply and authentically, [the man who has accessed the Lover] can also reach out to others with care, concern, empathy, and love. To the extent that this man has come to see all the destructive forces human beings are up against in this life, and to the extent that he owns his own inner darkness, his love for others is real (Moore and Gillette, page 151).
It’s Monday. David and Lyman are sitting across from each other in a booth at Taj Palace. The air is full of wonderful odors: curry and cardamom, lentils and yogurt. They like to meet here because it caters to their conflicting desires as 90s men–the food is healthful but exotic, the buffet offers plenty of choices and they can eat all they want. Somewhere Shiva is dancing. They are talking about love.
David is good man. He’s intelligent, sensitive, and sensible. He balances his life as a lawyer and divorced dad with gentle precision. His ex-wife and he are amicable, even doting. He’s fallen in love. He met Annie at a class they took together. Like David, she is in her early forties, divorced, with children. Lyman has met her and liked her very much. He’s sure she’s in love, too.
“This summer I was reading some books about relationships,” David is saying, “and in one of them the author, a man by the way, pointed out how almost always it’s the woman who is forced to initiate any discussion about the intimate matters in a relationship. He suggested that if you want to amaze a woman, really penetrate her heart, then tell her you want to discuss with her where your relationship will be in five or ten years.”
“You did this, then?”
“Yeah. One Sunday afternoon my daughter was at her mom’s. Annie came over and we were just relaxing and I brought the subject up.”
“And? How did she react?”
“The guy was right, she loved it. I mean it’s hard. We both have children. I’m trying to get back into writing. She’s finishing grad school and is looking for a job. How do you really discuss this kind of thing seriously, with commitment. So many variables, so many responsibilities. The thing she liked was that I was willing to enter the water with her, to talk, to aim at some future together, to say I want you now and I want you forever. I think women find it difficult and frightening to feel that they carry the responsibility of the relationship all by themselves. I think too often that when a woman mentions the word “relationship,” the man takes off.
“So where are you going to be in ten years?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere, doing something, with Annie, I assume.”
Bruce Springstein sings in the background:
We swore we’d travel darlin’ side by side
We’d help each other stay in stride
But each Lover’s steps fall so differently
But I’ll wait for you
And if I fall behind
Wait for me
Lyman starts to get into the music. He jumps out of his father’s chair and dances around the room. He tries a little air guitar. He raises his arms over his head and bounces from chair to couch. He begins to move his hips, moves them faster, his legs begin to loosen, he breaks a sweat and sings along with Bruce and Patti.
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust.
His voice rises loud and free, and as the song ends, silence settles in the room. He collapses into the chair and knocks his book to the floor. Soon his wife and son will be home and he can quit reading. He doesn’t want a drink.
At the Garden Wall all words fail, unable to penetrate the scented air, hushed by the sounds of the quiet “Joy beyond the bonds of the world.” The mystics, from all religions and from all times and places, come here to challenge the gatekeepers, push aside the flaming sword that “turns this way and that” to keep us out of Paradise, and hear the Lover’s words. Some lose their way and never return to our world. Others stagger from the Gate, hair whitened, a faraway look in their eyes. They struggle to speak, to tell us things that are beyond mortal words. They stammer and fall silent. Still others. . .find words sufficient to at least outline the experience of the Garden, so that others can find their way (Moore and Gillette, page 113).
From New Texas (Austin, Texas)