Friday, August 29, 2008

becoming a band

Watch the movie “Stand by Me” again if you get a chance.

Contrary to popular belief, men want their friends to know them at a deep level; men want friendship that has a depth that transcends words, and is alive in the silence of fly fishing the same stretch of river, a hundred yards apart, yet joined in a way that only men can be.

And many men have these relationships, these gifts from God that defy explanation, but just ARE. When we hear of men, people we like and respect, who say that their lives don’t have friendships like this, we have no real counsel, because, truth be known, as far as we know, the friendships WE have like that are coincidental… gifts from God that fell in our lap. There is no advice for how to have such gifts “fall in one’s lap”, it either happens as a happy accident, or it doesn’t.

In my life, I have come to recognize some of the elements that make deep friendship possible, and whether they’re universal truths or not, I believe that at least some of what I have discovered is true.

As I look at my own friendships, I have noticed something interesting that is probably close to universal.

I am able to have deep friendships, and I have a number of true friends.

Say I have a close friend, let’s say Bryan, and we can talk about anything, and do.

And I have another friend Scott who I share the same depth of friendship.

And it happens that Scott and Bryan have a deep friendship as well.

Something odd happens when we’re ALL together. Because the conversations and connections have happened one-to-one, even though each of the three of us know each other very well, the stories are not shared stories of us as a group, even though we all know the stories because we’ve had separate conversations in which the stories have been told.

Stories, the recounting of our lives, is the basis for deep friendship, because deep friendship is the creation of story. When men experience life together, as a group, the story looks like “Stand by Me” or “Band of Brothers”.

We’re mid-forties family men, who have to really squeeze to find a time to meet the college buddies, and in reality, it rarely happens for many of us. Maybe it’s partly because of the danger… there is a dangerous element to the things that happen when men get together. Maybe not dangerous in a risky sense, but men together, feeling the weight of the responsibility and expectations come off, are not the same domesticated guys that hang out in the den at home. The change is unnerving for those who depend on the reliability and steadiness of the same men, yet crucial to being alive as a man.

This gets to the “accidental” aspect of friendship.

I have come to realize that deep friendships with a group of guys are possible for almost anyone, it does not have to be some cosmic happy accident.

If a group of men take the time to spend a week together, completely disconnected from everything, and they let it all hang out, what I refer to as “getting our yayas out”… if men can simply BE for a week, but it’s done together, amazing things happen. And further, if they are committed to telling each other, as a group, their life’s story, what happens is amazing.

First, trust happens.

And the conversations between the guys flows, because all of the stories are known by all of the guys.

And the groundwork is done for the story of the group to have a life… the story is the individual stories of the men, woven together into a new shared story of the group.

Such a group, if you’ve ever been a part of one, is like “Stand by Me” or “Band of Brothers”… it satisfies a deep need we have as men to be known, and respected, and loved.

And believe it or not, it reminds domesticated men of their real identity, which means that they will never be domesticated men ever again, but they become men who LIVE in a domesticated world in a much fuller sense.

Men who are part of such a group make better husbands, not because they become more docile and easy to get along with, but because they know they’re part of something larger than the fight that is brewing over the chores. If you have such a small story that your involvement in household chores is a significant part of what defines you as a man, then the fight over the laundry is going to be vicious. Conversely, if you are living in the identity that you are part of a larger group, and that your significance is not in any way defined by your involvement in the laundry, it’s way easier to simply do the laundry… it just ain’t a thing anymore. Life becomes too short to engage in heated negativity over small things, when there is a larger story going on.

There is a group of men who really understand this, and who have dedicated their lives and substantial resources to facilitate this process… to help the process of about five men to become deep friends.

Horizonquest is a ranch where Randy and his team provide an incredible week for a group of men, with the purpose of each man becoming part of the group in a deep way… it is a way to solidify a group and start the shared story. It is about hearing and honoring each other’s story. It’s about engaging in activities together that are more familiar to ranch hands than domesticated city men. It’s about eating gourmet food man style.

And it’s absolutely free. An entire week. I am not kidding.

Check it out for yourself… or email Randy at Pick about five guys, and schedule a week. You’ll never be the same.

for video of my having been there...

Monday, August 25, 2008

the tyranny of assumption

Age and maturity have left an impression on me, most often recognized by the odd noises I make in such strenuous endeavor as tying my shoes. Middle age is here to stay... and whodathunk that middle age was referring more to my waist size than the number and weight of the candles on my birthday cake?

Middle age DOES come with some benefit; there are some assumptions I have been conditioned to make that help conserve energy and the joints, these raw resources spent so frivolously as a youth, but conserved now as the true treasures they are. And I've been thinking today about a helpful assumption I've come to embrace.

I call it the "Lowes Assumption", because I have come to realize that my assumptions, while worthy of names, don't merit the audacity of naming them after myself. Unlike "Boyle's Law", or "Planck Constant", I have deferred MY brain trust to other entities, and as we peruse this one nugget of brain matter, it may become more obvious why I would be so humble. I'm starting to believe my humility is simply accurate assessment.

"Lowes Assumption", states, "for every unfamiliar job I find at hand, there is some equally unfamiliar tool at Lowes that accomplishes this particular job in the most efficient and least painful way, and the cost of the tool varies proportionally with the pain and aggravation of the job"

Got hair stuck in your drain, Lowes has a doohickey that looks like a Zip Tie with little fishhook cuts on each edge... hair in the drain rates less than $3.

The right tool for the right job.

Wisdom starts by embracing an assumption that I didn’t naturally have… up to some point in my life, I approached every problem as if I were the first to have ever experienced it. I reinvented the wheel pretty regularly, and in doing so, wasted some precious and irreplaceable resources.

I have learned that better than answers, I need good questions. Good questions are only possible when I examine my presuppositions; if I assume I’m the first to every experience something, then I’m not likely to seek out wisdom and experience from others.

Ask any question, and then analyze the question… what is assumed in the question… and might it be that the assumption is wrong or that the assumption somehow unnecessarily limits the possible answers?

So here’s a question for God.

God, why am I dealing with the pain and pressure that comes with having less money than I need?

And the assumptions…

· Pain is bad and needs to be dealt with
· Pressure is a bad thing too
· That there is a reason, and if God “tips His hand” I might be able to fix the issue
· That what I believe I need, I actually need
· That there is a better option than what I’m experiencing, and that God should help me find a different experience; a more comfortable experience
· That my comfort is a high priority to both me and God, and that reduced discomfort is by definition a good thing

After challenging my assumption, a “better question” might be to acknowledge the pressure and pain, yet make no further assumptions, to ask for an interpretation before asking for a response.

God, I feel this pressure and pain, and I am not sure how I should interpret it… and without interpretation help, I don’t know what my reaction should be. Lord, I invite you into this, and ask for guidance in interpretation, and wisdom in how to use the interpretation as I decide how to handle this issue.


Lord, free me from the tyranny of my own assumptions.