"My philosophy celebrates living authentically," explains Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the bestselling Simple Abundance books. In her new volume, A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance, Ban Breathnach realizes this philosophy once more by collecting more than 50 essays that describe men's experience. Each essay focuses on a different aspect of men's lives, but each speaks truly about what men know.
What men know, of course, is a lot. In A Man's Journey, we find essays about everything from family to solitude, from work to diversion. Editor Michael Segell, best known for his "Men's Mind" column in Esquire magazine, sorts these essays into general sections that, put together, describe every man's passage. The essays trace men's origins, struggles, duties, dreams, philosophies, and hobbies. They form a blurred map to a man's world.
But though the book as a whole describes every man's journey, each essay insists on the singularity of one man's path. The essays are unselfconscious, open -- authentic. In "A Broken Heart," for example, writer Charles Siebert details his father's death in terms as personal as they are blunt. He writes: "I realized that for the sake of the brave, quietly dignified man in the room behind me, I should start to get a grip. I remember actually asking him at one point in the throes of my heart hysteria how he did it, how he lived from day to day knowing how frail his heart was. 'Well,' he said, looking a bit startled by his clever son's fatuousness, 'what choice do I have?' " Siebert's quiet depiction of failure -- the failure of his father's heart, the failure of his own empathy -- moves us more than treacly heroism ever could. His experience is unique and rings true.
A Man's Journey includes the reflections of many such startling writers. But it also includes the notes and ruminations of nonwriters. Millard Fuller, the millionaire who founded Habitat for Humanity, provides a plainspoken account of his life's lowest point. Dr. Charles Simonyi, an elite programmer at Microsoft, enthuses about the moment in which he understood order. And Sting, the musician and songwriter, offers a genuine, understated history of his life's risks. "True risk, that sudden leap into cold water, can carry you into a state of grace," he explains. "Coincidences, synchronicity, chance, karmic charm, it doesn't matter what you call it; there's a positive force that intervenes to cover your back. Things click. It makes sense because true risk is the only thing that forces spiritual and emotional growth so immediately, so dramatically."
The men whose essays appear here speak from widely divergent perspectives. But each speaks honestly, authentically, about the experiences that form him. In collecting these essays, Sarah Ban Breathnach and Michael Segell have created an outline of men's journeys that acknowledges the specificity of each man’s path. It's a collection worth reading for its breadth and scope -- and for its singular, startling passages.
Some men tend to keep their distance from self-help books for fear that the advice will be too "touchy-feely" and attempt to force them to go against who they are. With that in mind, Sarah Ban Breathnach, bestselling author of the Simple Abundance series, has created a book just for men: A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance. This latest work is a compendium of essays by men about men, and it's designed both for men and for women who are interested in a better understanding of the world men live in today.
The contributors are a varied lot, and there is a diversity of careers represented: from rock stars to writers to professional hunters. There are six sections to this book, with essays by such luminaries as Roy Blount Jr., Harold Evans, Rick Bass, Tim Cahill, and Sting.
The pieces range from thoughtful to humorous, with such topics as "Fathers to the Community" and "Ten Things I Hope My Kids Learn Sooner Than I Did." There are also essays about work, money, success, and, of course, those mysterious creatures, women.
With this enriching collection, everyone can find something to treasure in each essay.
Jennifer J. Jarett is a freelance writer living in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
UPON READING THIS BOOK
Man and woman He created them. Book of Genesis
From ancient times we have been told that human beings were created in Spirit's image. However, as the acclaimed television journalist Bill Moyers reminds us, "being made in the likeness of God does not mean we were made to think alike."
Especially women and men.
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve. I find it fascinating that there are two startling accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis, and they completely contradict each other. One could be called Eve's recollection, which has God creating both masculine and feminine energy in a single breath. In Adam's version, of course, he comes first. This original "He Says/She Says" also amused Mark Twain, who wrote The Diary of Adam and Eve, tracing the battle of the sexes back to the observation, "The new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way. It is always hanging around and following me about. I don't like this; I am not used to company."
To tell the truth, since I'm an incurable romantic, I actually prefer Adam's version because it's the original love story. After Adam is created, he wanders through Eden and then asks the inevitable question of his Maker: "Why are there two of every living creature but me?" God realizes that it's not good for man to be alone. I have always wondered if Spirit created a companion for Adam as an afterthought, or was He just waiting patiently for Adam to have an epiphany? Something or someone was missing.
So Adam is told to take a nap and when he does he has a wild dream. In it, God uses one of his ribs to craft the first soul mate. I think this imagery is exquisite. God removes a bone from the barrier that protects a man's heart to create the woman meant to fill it. The poet e.e. cummings describes this miracle best: "One's not half of two, it's two that are halves of one."
I think A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance deepens and broadens the eternal romance between Adam and Eve. Certainly, it was written in the spirit of bringing men and women closer together by revealing our similarities, not just our differences. Part owner's manual, part guidebook, A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance examines the private pilgrimages that occur in every man's life and the compass that steers him toward life's true north.
One of the most unexpected and meaningful compliments I've received about Simple Abundance is that it has enabled men to understand what's really important to the women they love -- whether it's their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, or friends. As one man put it, "You've given men the Rosetta stone." We've tried to accomplish the same thing here. I say "we" because this book has been a collaborative effort of the first magnitude.
There's a reason it's taken so long for there to be a men's Simple Abundance. The heart of my philosophy celebrates living authentically. Being a woman, I know how a woman thinks, feels, frets, and loves. But as much as I adore men, I understand as much about them as Eve did on her first day in Eden. Realizing and honoring the differences between the sexes, I knew that if there was to be a men's version of Simple Abundance, I'd need the right collaborator to help me explore the last great spiritual adventure, the quest for understanding male emotions. I found him in Michael Segell, the former "Male Mind" columnist for Esquire and the author of Standup Guy: Masculinity That Works, a personal and provocative dispatch from behind the front lines of the gender wars. Think of us as agents provocateurs dedicated to getting men and women together again on the page. All of the introductions before each essay were written by Michael Segell except for one, which I wrote. Frequently, though, the essays triggered such a personal reaction in me that I felt compelled to flash a feminine response afterward.
For my women readers, I believe this book will surprise you as much as it did me. To begin with, the format is completely different from the original Simple Abundance, which was written as one side of an intimate conversation between two women over the course of a year. In A Man's Journey there are more than fifty male voices illuminating what it means to be a man today with a courage and candor that is at times unsettling but always life-affirming. The topics the men explore celebrate how and where the sacred manifests in their daily lives, and often it's not where a woman might think. Some of the essays are philosophical, some heart-wrenching, some humorous, some ruminative, some just plain quirky, but all are compelling. Authenticity pushes us past our comfort zone, so please be open. The territory may seem unfamiliar at times. At the very least, after reading these essays, you and your partner can look forward to a year's worth of stimulating conversations (besides discussing the kids, money, chores, and how exhausted you both are).
For me, working on this book felt like living on a fault line of the soul; I never knew when my own tectonic plates were going to start shifting, and the aftershocks were equally profound. I believe you'll be as moved as I was by the deep emotional honesty of the writing, whether it makes you laugh or cry. Like the best books, A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance does both.
Toward the end of Adam and Eve's diary (as channeled by Mark Twain), the woman confides: "The Garden is lost, but I have found him, and am content." As for the man, he admits, "Wheresoever she was, there was Eden."
Man or woman, may this book bless you with equally surprising truths and extraordinary perceptions. Perhaps we will have another shot at experiencing Heaven on earth together. At least it's worth a read.
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach, July 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Simple Abundance, Inc.