A Call to All Men

by Adam Warburton, Pottsville NSW

We meet in the street, and shake hands, meet each other in the eye. Or maybe we meet at work. Maybe you are my brother, my best mate, my boss, or maybe a stranger. It doesn’t matter… it’s all the same. We check each other out; cordial, polite, but quietly guarded. We share a joke, and laugh, but not the uncontained joyful laughter we might share with our wife or daughter, but one that is a little more brusque, sharp, more controlled – a laughter that says, “Hey that’s funny, but you’re not getting in, buddy”. Nobody gets in. We talk about little things, big things, politics, sport: we share life experiences, but always, underneath, there is a game going on.

Can you feel it? That unspoken competition that never dies? I tell you about my latest surf trip: not to be left out, you talk about the great barrel you got the other day, maybe, just to quietly show you aren’t missing out. Oh, but maybe you don’t surf – so you change the rules of the game. You mention your kids… they are doing great, really, and your job; you just got a promotion. ‘Fantastic’, I say, and that’s it – the game is over. A draw as usual. You mention the weather. Ah, relief… now that’s something we can share without competition. The tension eases, and we drop into that comfortable conversation where the status quo is not challenged. Meanwhile we check ourselves. No harm was done: our walls are still solid.

I am a man. I am great at the big issues. Threaten me, attack those I love, and I will not hold back. But please, please, don’t ask me how I am really feeling. Don’t ask me to relate – because then I might just have to be vulnerable, I may just admit that it hurts. “But there is no war”, you say, to which I reply, “There is always the potential though, and I need to be ready, because this time – this time, I am not going to get hurt”. Throw a rock… I’ve got the gun ready. You have a grenade, that’s fine, I’ve been preparing for years, and so I bring out the rocket launcher. Or maybe I don’t wait – maybe I learnt a long time ago to preempt what is waiting for me past the front door… so every time I open it… boom!! Everything I have got… just to clear the way. Nothing personal… just got to make sure. Because, last time – come to think of it I cannot even remember last time I felt hurt. I’ve been doing it for too long – but no matter, I’ve got to stay prepared – just in case.

I close the door. All clear, I say to no-one in particular. I turn to my wife, my child, and I drop the guard: I soften, and relax, or so I think. “I love you”, I say, but it echoes inside my helmet, an empty sound if ever I heard one. “I can’t hear you”, my wife says, and my daughter, she is looking at me all kinds of strange. Oh, I realise, and I take off the helmet and the gloves; I put the sword down, and there I am, in civilian clothing again, ready to be dad, ready to be husband. But unbeknownst to me the game I started to play long ago continues, only now it is the game that is playing me. It is a game that everyone unknowingly becomes a part of, whether I want them to or not. It is a game with no beginning or end, and the most painful part about it? It is a game that never stops. So underneath, unbeknownst to them, I keep the bulletproof vest on, just to be safe – just to be sure: they can’t see it, and neither can I… I’ve been playing the game for too long. So I reach out from behind the wall, guarded, but polite. Considerate. Caring. Loving. But the question that I dare not ask myself threatens to raise its head – am I really loving, caring, the way I know I want to be, or am I just still playing the game?

Now there is one thing I know for sure: if you want to win the Tour de France, you have to train for it – you have to devote everything towards it. After a while, it shows in your body; it starts to change shape – muscles harden, the eyes narrow their focus. A hollowness appears under your cheekbones, and veins appear where once there were none as the last remnants of fat deposits disappear. The hours and years of dedicated training have made your body that way. Then someone asks you to dance – but you can’t… the hips are no longer flexible. The hamstrings don’t stretch far enough, and you find that you no longer can touch your toes – because your body has been configured for one thing only – to win the Tour de France.

What is my point, you say? Well, at 6.00am I leave for work, and I put up the shield, the armour, the tough guy face, and I hold that until I get home every day, 5 to 6 days a week. On the days off I may socialise, go for a surf, hang out with friends, and so the shield is not as intense; but on those days my body is still in training, devoting its all to being protected – to strengthening the wall. All that devotion, all that training, and then magically, I expect somehow that the body I bring home to my wife and child can suddenly change, soften, open up, be there to express the love I so desperately want to show. But the sad fact is that I cannot – at least not in full – because the armour is still there, letting nothing in, but also letting nothing out. Spend your life training for the Tour de France, and alas, when someone asks you to dance, you cannot. Sure, you can go through the motions, hold your partner, make it look like you can dance – but deep down you know that your body is being held back by that choice you made long, long ago.

So, my fellow brothers, let us make a pact. When we meet in the street, and shake hands, let us look each other in the eye, but this time let us really see. No need to hug, or be soft or pathetic. But let us again be open; let our conversation be true. Let us look at each other as we might our wife or our daughter. At first it may not be easy, but that’s fine; it may take a while, but that’s fine also. After all, training takes time. But if we are sincere, I promise you, our bodies can let go of the fight, let go of the armour, so that once again, at last, we can truly, deeply love.

279 thoughts on “A Call to All Men

  1. It’s such a great analogy you offer Adam – that of if you train for the Tour de France you end up with a body that can only do that. So for us all to be able to respond full-bodily to every moment of life we need to ‘train’ for universality so we have a body that is fit for life. This ‘training’ won’t leave you with sore muscles and aching bones – quite the contrary, it is the training of self-love where caring for ourselves is top of the list, which opens our body to the universality that life truly is.

  2. Yesterday I saw a picture I am reminded of. It was a man escorting another man to his marriage. They where on their way to the stage where others and the bride waited. The two men did hold each other with their hands on their walk. A simple gesture of connection, communion and intimacy. And I cried. I was touched so deeply from what I saw in this picture. Men who show their tenderness and love for each other.
    If we will increase this, it will change the world much more than any political manoeuvre or any laws. I will support this as much as possible and be willing to change my habits and behaviors, my way of living to see this on every street on earth: unarmored men.

  3. This is a truly extraordinary article Adam, super powerful and deeply moving.. a beautiful call that not only men can step up to but one for us all…. to let go of our protection and deeply connect with each other.

  4. I deeply love your blog Adam. You invite all men to truly meet each other and you share that with such a love that all is felt what is possible, Thank you it is touching my heart to let go more of my shields too.

  5. A beautiful call to open up to each other, which could equally be called out to women, even though we may use different strategies but we don’t truly open up to each other either, getting lost in comparison, hardening our bodies trying to avoid jealousy, makes it hard to trust one another, However if we do not re-learn to open up to one another we stay imprisoned and alone behind our walls and forever long for love and intimacy, wondering where to find it.

  6. “am I really loving, caring, the way I know I want to be, or am I just still playing the game?” Great question. We all have to learn to dance with each other with open hearts and open arms to feel the love and tenderness we naturally are.

  7. I’ll take that call Adam, or I have already taken it. That ‘call’ is an ongoing development with my expression and how that looks honouring my tenderness. Yes, I can honestly say I have new friends AND I have not deserted my old mates – they have deserted me? I’m more open with my love than I have ever been, while my expression deepens. When I have been in contact with my old mates they are repeating the same manner and behaviour. It’s the same behaviour but more ingrained to the point they are not aware unless they make a connection to me where it will be exposed. So I join The Call To All Men . . . and my gentleness will continue to shine.

  8. When we are on guard we are automatically layered with armour, on the defensive and poised waiting to be attacked. Who wants to live their days like that when there is another way.

  9. And as a women I can offer an openness in myself, a letting down of my guard to feel my own vulnerability, and in this is the space to hold another equally in their vulnerability without imposing on them to be or do anything else.

  10. This is so well said it’s ridiculous, we think we can be one way with our bodies or ourselves and this won’t change how we are everywhere else. I loved the Tour de France analogy and it makes perfect sense but why don’t we see this with everything? For years and still now I didn’t relate to this being the case with many things and now more and more I am seeing how this all works. Whatever you do anywhere is always with you, we can’t turn part of ourselves off and on. We can make it look that way but truly it never ever feels this way, great article.

  11. What you illustrate here so exactly is how our every move and every thought contributes to how we hold ourselves in our bodies and how our body simply carries out what we put into action but always with the consequences of the moves we have done before. And this explains so well why once we realise something we cannot change it instantly, but that it takes time and dedication to bring our bodies back to their natural tenderness and flow.

  12. I started reading and went ‘Wow. Is this what it is like to be a man?’ then realised that being a woman is pretty much the same. Looks different, but nonetheless the same in that we are in extreme pain of holding ourselves back. The irony is we are trying to live what we think we are while holding back our true essence. Pretty obvious that wouldn’t tally up.

  13. Yes, men are like that, or should I say, behave like that, because it is not who we really are. I have been training to be such a guarded men as well and in the end I did not even know what was the reason I put a wall up. Yes, it takes training to take the wall down again, to meet men, and women, with intimacy, being transparent of what I am feeling. Easy? No. But very worthwhile.

  14. Men like you are absolute gold Adam. It is very beautiful to meet a man who is fully open and lets you in, who doesn’t hold back on his willngness to connect with others. I love how you express and what you bring to others and inspire in them.

  15. Sincerely felt, thank you Adam. Sometimes things in life may well hurt but we all have within us all that we need to heal and move on. And being open doesn’t mean we have to be fluffy or pathetic as you say but there with all of who we are.

  16. As we men shield ourselves, it ceases to be a alien object on our body to become part of our body, part of us. Hence, the more we use it, the hardest to connect to life without it. You get to know life through it. At most we can loosen it up a bit and feel how is life then. This is particularly the case when you are not even aware of the shield you carry around. So, our notion of freedom is not really a true one because we cannot be free if we wear a shield. A shield seals a specific configuration in our body we feel comfortable with (comfortable not necessarily in the sense of comfort as opposed to discomfort but in the sense of familiarity; known waters to swim on). It locks us in a specific way to see, feel and relate to life and to ourselves. Becoming aware of all of this is huge. It gives you a real feeling of where you are at and helps us to understand the way out of the jail you have chosen to be locked in. It also helps you to understand the others, also prisoners of the jails of their own making.

  17. I have observed some men in recent years who through their hardness have made their way to the ‘top’ in life. Won the ‘tour de France’ or become a political leader perhaps. But underneath their drive to be ‘top of the pops’ is that deep hurt. And if you know where to look, it is often quite evident – in their words for example. People who are world leaders saying that ‘they aren’t laughing at us any more’. Someone who felt the horror of being hurt by the words of another in the playground, who goes into protection and then pure drivenness to never be hurt again. It’s all very understandable – but is it a foundation for running a country or a business? Do we want life to be about protecting ourselves from hurts…or do we want it to be about love, connection, unity and oneness? I’m in for Adam’s pact because I have experienced both sides of this coin…and only the choice to be love truly works.

  18. Now this is something worth training for to let go of the layers of protection that we have all built around ourselves. Thank you for the inspiration Adam which I can really relate to even if superficially women appear to have more connection there is so often still a guardedness and a lack of allowing our vulnerability to show.

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