The Authentic Journey Continues -- for Women to Understand Men, and for Men to Understand Themselves.
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About the Author
Sarah Ban Breathnach, a writer of remarkable wisdom, warmth, and compassion, has become a trusted voice to women around the world. Sarah is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy and the creator of The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Her work celebrates quiet joys, simple pleasures, and well-spent moments. Sarah reminds us to search with appreciation and awe for the small and the sweet in our daily lives.
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.
Table of Contents
|Upon Reading This Book||13|
|Part 1||Latitude and Longitude|
|Mothers: Like Mother, Like Son||23|
|Fathers: The Family Album||33|
|Gratitude: Love in All the Right Places||40|
|Daughters: Like Father, Like Daughter||47|
|Sons: Separate and Shared Agenda||55|
|Siblings: Mirror Image||60|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Things I Wish I'd Said to My Father||67|
|Part 2||Private Pilgrimages|
|Vulnerability: A Broken Heart||71|
|Simplicity: As It Is||83|
|Therapy: Vision Quest||91|
|Balls: You Only Need One||101|
|Fear: The Bravest Thing I Ever Did||108|
|Vanity: A Man and His Hair||118|
|Mood: The Tyranny of Gloom||124|
|Conscience: The Burden of Truth||130|
|Meditation: The Question of Zen||140|
|Solitude: The Hermit||145|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Things Every Man Worth His Salt Should Know How to Do||152|
|Part 3||Rules of the Road|
|Heroes: The Chief||155|
|Order: How Things Work||162|
|Patriotism: A Higher Calling||170|
|Risk: Let Your Soul Be Your Bookie||175|
|Resilience: Love Among the Ruins||180|
|Faith: My Problem with Prayer||190|
|Courage: To Thine Own Self||197|
|Loyalty: Coffee and Sympathy||204|
|Boundaries: Fathers to the Community||212|
|Mentoring: In loco parentis||218|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Things I Hope My Kids Learn Sooner Than I Did||225|
|Part 4||Islands of Fame and Fortune|
|Money: You Can Never Lose Enough||229|
|Harmony: Making Perfect Dirt||239|
|Recruitment: A Professor for All Seasons||245|
|Work: Blood, Sweat, and Cheers||255|
|Listening: Finding Your Calling||262|
|Chance: A Planned Life Can Only Be Endured||273|
|Failure: To Err Greatly||279|
|Rewards: A Lucky Choice||286|
|Freedom: The Wild Blue Yonder||292|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Questions a Man Should Know the Answers To||303|
|Part 5||Diversions and Detours|
|Humor: Accustomed to Her Laughter||307|
|Beauty: Eye of the Beholder||313|
|The Wedding: The Great Groomal Expo||321|
|Companions: Heartbeat of the Running Dog||327|
|Cars: Hers Is a Lush Situation||337|
|Fans: They Killed Our Fathers and Grandfathers and Now the Sonsabitches Are Coming for Us||345|
|Hunting: Basic Instinct||352|
|Icons: Some Real Good Men||360|
|Lifestyle: In the Tube||367|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Things I Want My Lover/Partner/Wife to Know||372|
|Part 6||True North|
|Soulmate: First Love, Again||375|
|Authentic Success: Hero to His Children||385|
|Redemption: The Love of a Good Woman||396|
|Death: Beyond the Chrysalis||402|
|Joy: Cultivating Life As an Act of Love||410|
|Thoughts for the Road: Ten Things Every Man Should Keep in Mind at All Times||417|
|With Thanks and Appreciation||419|
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Men
1. Many of the essayists -- particularly Mark Winegardner -- refer to the influence of their mothers. What areas of the authors' lives were most influenced by their mothers? What impact did your mother have on your life? Did she play a particular role in shaping your career decisions or personal choices?
2. In the preface to the book's "Fathers" section, Michael Segell writes, "How sad it is that so many of us seem to know and appreciate our fathers better in death than in life." Do you think this belated understanding of fathers is true of daughters as well as sons? If so, why? Generally speaking, do men or women have an easier time relating to their fathers, and why? Also, as Charles Siebert's essay points out, it seems men often draw closer to their fathers only in times of tragedy or severe need. Why do you think this is? Are there examples from your life, or the lives of friends and family, that mirror this?
3. Recall Nelson Aldrich's distressing tale about his family's wealth. Who taught you financial lessons, your mother or father? Both? Neither? How do you cope with economic hardship, or react to prosperity? How does this differ from the women you've known and their attitudes to money?
4. There are many essays about being or having a mentor. Have you ever been a mentor to someone outside your family? How did you and the other person benefit from the relationship? Were your favorite teachers men or women? Compare them to other men or women who have influenced you. Is there any trait these role models share?
5. Several essayists -- including Daniel Menaker and Tim Cahill -- refer to anxiety disorders. Have you ever suffered from a similar ailment? Have your male friends? What causes you the most anxiety? Do you believe men are more or less prone to anxiety than women? Why?
6. In his essay on men's moods, Robert Johnson refers to four faculties outlined by Carl Jung -- thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. How do the men display these faculties in the essays? Of the four faculties, is there one that seems more prevalent than others throughout the book?
Questions for Women
7. Roger Evans writes, "Even though I knew clinically what Laura was up against, I just had this confidence and resolute feeling that cancer had picked on the wrong person." This stubborn opposition to life's challenges is often seen as a shortcoming in men, but these essays tend to show it in the service of compassion and loyalty. Are there other masculine traits associated with negative stereotypes that you saw in a more positive light in these essays? Are there traits or tendencies on display in this book that you don't typically equate with men?
8. Sting writes, "What was I thinking? Well, I wasn't. There seems to be very little cognitive process associated with risks." Which essayists assess risks carefully and which plunge into change with little thought of consequences? How do these men approach risk differently than you would as a woman?
9. Geoffrey Norman writes about raising risk-taking daughters, often in the face of criticism from others. Is this typical of the way men you know have raised their daughters? If not, how is it different? As a woman, do you agree with his approach? Would you feel differently if it were a son?
10. Do you participate in physical practices or routines that constitute a "form of meditation," as Elwood Reid put it? If so, what are they? In general, what is your relationship toward physical exertion? What do you think of the men in the book who crave athletic or physical regimens? Do you share that desire? If so, do you think it's for the same reason men do?
11. Are the men in your life more or less spiritual than the women you know? Have you ever argued with a man about spirituality and religion? What was the root of the conflict? Conversely, have you ever felt strongly attuned to a man's sense of spirituality?
12. Could any of these essays have been written by a woman? Why or why not?
Questions for Men and Women
13. In the introduction, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes of the book: "Certainly, it was written in the spirit of bringing men and women closer together by revealing our similarities, not just our differences." Did this book make you feel closer to the opposite gender? If so, how? Does the book as a whole suggest there is a uniformity or consistency to the male perspective?
14. Which essay resonated most with your own life? Which was the farthest from your own experience? What did you learn from each?
15. Discuss Greg Marinovich's essay on photographing atrocities. Does this ability to witness violence without intervening seem particularly male to you? If you are a man, could you imagine taking the photographs Marinovich took with a relatively steady hand? If you are a woman, do you think you could distance yourself from your moral outrage in such circumstances?
16. Gallagher Polyn's essay confronts the issue of men's health. Are physical illnesses more alienating for men than for women? Is it more socially difficult to be a stricken man than a sick woman? If so, why? What are the differences in the way our culture views illness in each gender?
17. Does either sex have a greater ability to deal with solitude? Does either sex crave it more? What different joys do men and women experience in solitude? If you could choose any amount of time to "get away from it all," how long would you take, where would you go, and what would you do?
18. Several essays grapple with the notion of questioning one's purpose. Have you traditionally thought of this as a manly dilemma? Do you think men or women tend to be more restless? In what areas of life are men and women more likely to make drastic changes?
19. Bruce Main writes: "...I learned that our best mentors and lifetime guides could be found in the characters of a novel..." In what ways have fictional characters affected your decision-making? What books have had the most formative effect on you and how, specifically, did they change you?
20. In the spirit of the lists throughout the book, compose the following lists and share them with others in the group:
- Ten Things Women Should Learn to Accept About Men
- Ten Things Men Should Try to Change About Themselves
- Ten Traits of Your Favorite Men
- Ten Traits of Your Favorite Women
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