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by Andrew Cohen

What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a man at the beginning of the twenty-first century in a post-traditional, postmodern world? Who are our exemplars, and to whom can we look for mentorship as it relates to gender identity in our own time? If we look backward for indications of how to be men in the new world that we’re all creating together, we’re unlikely to find what we need. Why? Because the world that we’re living in is changing at a faster rate than it ever has before. Cultural evolution, which has progressed through history from traditional to modern to postmodern values, is very much in a state of flux, transition, and to put it bluntly, existential confusion. The truth is, these days most sophisticated men and women aren’t very clear about what it’s supposed to mean to be male or female. I know in my own case, being a late-blooming boomer from a liberal, progressive family, the subject of what it means to be a man literally never came up. (Although I must admit, Superman was my favorite superhero when I was a kid!)

In order to address this enormous void in our evolving culture, we at What Is Enlightenment? have put together what we believe is a very compelling collection of articles, interviews, and dialogues that, I must admit, raise more questions than give answers. But that’s what we felt we needed to do: Get the conversation going! I, for one, am pleased with the result. This has been an educational journey for all of us here and one that we feel will hopefully bring a little bit of light and energy to an important dimension of our collective lives that needs to be illuminated.

In our special feature, “Constructing the New Man,” we present four perspectives on manliness in the twenty-first century from men with very different backgrounds, ages, and viewpoints. In “What Ever Happened to the Vikings?” senior editor Elizabeth Debold presents a provocative and hard-hitting exposé of the predicament in which men find themselves in some of the most progressive countries on our small planet. In “Speaking of Men,” we ask nineteen powerful, influential, thoughtful, and accomplished women to describe their vision of what the next step for men might be. In “Confessions of a Formerly Sensitive New Age Man,” my colleague Ross Robertson describes in excruciating detail what it was like to grow up in the 1970s in Northern California, guided carefully into manhood by an adoring psychotherapist who happened to be his mother. Finally, in my “Guru and Pandit” dialogue with philosopher Ken Wilber, we endeavor to embrace this entire topic in the biggest context we can.

I’m sure you will enjoy this heady brew!

On another note, we’re all thrilled to announce that with the next issue, we’re changing the name of our publication from What Is Enlightenment? to EnlightenNext. Turn to page 4 for an explanation of why that is and what other exciting changes there are to look forward to.

Thank you for your interest, enthusiasm, and support!


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This article is from
Constructing the New Man