Recently, I’ve been thinking about the rite of passage tradition and how it affects us as men and I wanted to share some of my own views. In many civilizations around the world, man was required to exhibit his mental toughness and those timeless masculine traits such as courage, self-reliance and valor to earn his place before entering a new stage of life.
And for good reason. How can we trust that a man is fit to be called an adult, a hunter, a soldier, a provider a leader, a man etc without some track record proving that he indeed possesses the traits to take on the burdens and challenges of the responsibility. He needed to prove his mettle and was tested through a rite of passage.
Timeless or untimely?
It would be naive for me to dismiss the value of this tradition which stood the test of time in numerous cultures throughout recorded history in one form or the other. It basically comes down to the question: You think you are worthy of respect and acceptance? Then prove it! Yet despite its apparent value to generations of people much wiser than myself, I have this love hate relationship with the idea of rite of passage, especially into manhood.
Firstly, I believe that all men have the capacity for greatness within them and that society needs to develop our males with this assumption in mind. Our policies should be tailored to give males their best chance to reach their peak, not dismissed and devalued as second-class human beings.
But would a formal rigidly defined rite of passage enhance or detract from this belief? Of what value is this proof of competence in today’s world? Would a rigidly define rite of passage not stifle the individuality of males? I am tempted to believe that the rite of passage ignores male’s diverse strengths and weaknesses by hinging their masculinity on a rigidly defined challenge? Societies today is far to diverse and globalized for anything rigid.
Of course, there is also the question of relevance in today’s world. Has the cultural shift away from self-reliance to group mentality rendered the rites of passage tradition outdated? Are we still required to prove that we are prepared for new stages in life by putting ourselves to the test relying only on our wits and willpower? Or do we simply make it up as we go along and “Google” out of trouble? Or maybe “there’s an app for that”. Does it matter that we never had to come face to face with our own perceived limitations only to be forced to push past it by a rite of passage?
Time-tested concept in a modern world
As I ponder these things, I can’t help but wonder about the traits of human beings that stay unchanged even as our culture and mindset changes? Primal urges that stuck with us as our civilization evolved. Traits required to survive, to build, to thrive. I feel that it is inextricably linked to the age-old rite of passage tradition no matter what form it takes. Can we really live to our full potential without giving these primal instincts the chance to develop?
I personally don’t think that we can. We as men need to take on challenges and overcome. We need the rite of passage as a means of building character, to spark that sense of adventure, to pick ourselves up when we are down. We need to know that we can do it.
As I pointed out before, a pre-defined rite of passage can become rigid and limiting and although this is advantageous when our lifestyles are pre-defined, it is unproductive when placed in the melting pot of diverse and rapidly changing lifestyles, trends and culture.
Still I believe that the rite of passage has a place and should not be demoted as some irrelevant remnant of the past. There is value to it. A value that has proven to be timeless and should not be erased by a few years of “woke” cultural lunacy. The solution is to make it adaptable to the man himself. Whereas the rites of passage of our ancestors were fixed for all men in the various tribes and societies, in the modern era it should be on an individual level. The challenges constituting a rite of passage must reflect the diversity of the modern man while still providing obstacles that shape his character and teach him about who he is and who he can become, i.e. the greatness within.
I believe that we should instill that desire and mentality in our males to take on their own challenges and put themselves to the test to become the best they can be. To push their own boundaries and find the limits of their potential.