How To Be a Man

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Chalice lighting

We light this flame today for love
Let it begin by kindling a love in each of our hearts
A needed love for self that spreads to other
Let that love grow into a community united by love
A community where love fosters deep justice
And let the light of love spread beyond this place
To inspire a blaze of love in the world
For only love can deliver what is so sorely needed
The dawning of the day when every passenger upon the earth will truly know justice.

Extract from Walking on the Pastures of Wonder by John O’Donohue

Every human person is inevitably involved with two worlds: the world they carry within them and the world that is out there. All thinking, all writing, all action, all creation and all destruction is about that bridge between the two worlds. All thought is about putting a face on experience... One of the most exciting and energetic forms of thought is the question. I always think that the question is like a lantern. It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore, the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you. So a question is really one of the forms in which wonder expresses itself. One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder.

One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts.

Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapour without end.

Message  by James Arnoldi

This talk explores the problematic notion of 'Being a Man'. What does it mean to identify - or be labelled by others - as male? How does it influence that person's self-perception and behaviour? James Arnoldi, founder of New Unity's men's group Not Just a Beard, examines the consequences of being labelled 'a man', as well as exploring his own questions of whether or not to self-identify as one. [The verbatim of this talk isn't available, as James speaks from notes.]

Closing Words

Whoever you are
Whether male or female or beyond binaries
May you have the opportunity to grow into your own wholeness
To become the person you dream of being
An individual connected inextricably to the whole of humanity
And to all living beings.