During our research for this issue, we came across an intriguing weekly podcast called “The New Man.” Led by charismatic Gen-X host Tripp Lanier, the online broadcast’s serious and spirited inquiry quickly drew us in, and we spent a number of sessions listening to Lanier’s explorations with his many guests into such themes as “The Warrior’s Journey” and “Is It Necessary to Get Close to Death to Live Life?” When we heard a series of dialogues between Lanier and his longtime colleague Jayson Gaddis in which they demonstrated an unusual willingness to question existing definitions of masculinity in their pursuit of “the new man,” we decided to give them a call.
Besides being the lead singer for two rock bands, Hank Madison and Screaming Witness, Lanier is a successful music producer, an “integral men’s coach,” and a course leader for the Authentic Man Program. He facilitates men’s groups in the Boulder, Colorado, area and cites integral philosopher Ken Wilber as one of his primary influences.
Gaddis is a transformational coach and psychotherapist specializing in working with adult men and women undergoing life transitions. In 2001, he founded his own company, Innernature, and has led more than two dozen wilderness rite-of-passage trips for young men. He is also a meditation instructor and leads Authentic Man courses in Boulder.
Curious to see where the next generation’s men’s movement may be headed, we asked Lanier and Gaddis what new and emerging male ideals and archetypes may await us beyond all that’s come before.
WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT: In your online radio dialogues, both of you have tried to address issues facing men in the twenty-first century. You have suggested that the new ideal for men should be something that goes beyond both the “macho jerk” and the “New Age wimp.” So what would that look like? What’s the next step for men?
Tripp Lanier: That’s really the inquiry of our program. There isn’t a preset position. For me, it’s a guy who is being himself. That sounds overly simple, but I actually feel it in my body when I’m around certain men if they’re closed down, if they’re not in touch with their passion, their desire, or their purpose. So it’s someone who’s willing to be who they are, warts and all. It’s someone who isn’t shrinking from who they are.
Jayson Gaddis: I agree with that, but I would also include the idea that “I don’t know who I am,” because if that’s an authentic statement in the moment, then that guy is trustworthy. I’m already curious about that guy versus another guy who might say, “I got my shit together, and I do all this great stuff. I’m the man.” That sounds more like an ego trip. When we’re being ourselves, we’re not out to prove anything. We want to make our mark, but there’s no desperation involved. There’s an ease and simplicity.
WIE: What are the obstacles to authentic manhood in postmodern culture?
Lanier: One obstacle is what I call the Rambo mentality: It’s me against the world. As men, we tend to isolate ourselves. The idea of learning how to ask for support is huge. So there’s this core belief that “I’m alone. Whatever problem or whatever challenge I’m facing, it’s mine and it’s only mine.” That’s a fallacy, and it stems from an association of vulnerability with weakness. I’m weak if I reach out and ask for support. I see that over and over again, and it really limits what’s possible for men in this day and age.
Gaddis: I think for me, the biggest obstacle is the “should.” I should be this or I should be that. We betray ourselves to fit into what other men are doing—whether it’s the professional athlete with a bunch of tattoos on his arm or the guy on Wall Street. We have so few authentic male models that we can look at.
WIE: In one of your podcasts, Jayson, you said that we as a culture are failing young men. What did you mean by that?
Gaddis: I meant that in traditional cultures—and I don’t want to romanticize traditional cultures—but often in traditional cultures, the elders of the society were initiating the young men. They were challenging them, helping them to go through some kind of ordeal, which is a necessary passage when you hit a certain threshold in life. You need to go through an ordeal and get to the other side. We are not doing that with our young men.
Now I’m in my thirties, but I’m working with college-age men and teenage boys. I’m doing my best to deliver a meaningful experience, to help them go through some kind of ordeal, to come out on the other side and feel more themselves, more in touch with their purpose in life or their confusion about life.
But I do think the elders of our culture are dropping the ball. We could be doing a lot more. And there are plenty of examples that we can draw wisdom from.
WIE: Do you think it has to do partially with our culture’s emphasis on individualism? We’re so focused on self-development and personal achievement, it seems, that we may be lacking the larger cultural structures that could provide that kind of initiation.
Gaddis: Yes, I agree with that. I think we are a highly individualized society, so that’s what gets rewarded. If I put in a seventy-hour workweek, I get a lot of conventional praise for it. But then on the weekend, I might let off steam in an unconscious way. I might be a mess inside; I might be miserable, have dark thoughts or whatever. So where is my community? Where are my people? Where are my fellow men to hold me accountable, call me out, challenge me, love me, confront me?
WIE: Both of you have spoken about the “go it alone” tendency in men, the Rambo mentality, as you put it, Tripp. There’s a real destructive, negative side to that. But it seems that it is also just part of the masculine character. I was wondering if that kind of autonomy could also play a constructive role in the next stage of manhood?
Gaddis: I think there’s a huge positive side to it, and let’s call it what it is. It’s the warrior archetype. I think of a true archetypal warrior who is embodied, conscious, and integrated in community. He is on purpose, kicking ass in life, and having fun. A warrior takes full responsibility for his life. No one’s going to do it for him. No one’s going to carry him along. He’s not a victim. I think conscious warriorship is about taking full responsibility—stepping into your own life in a completely embodied way.
Lanier: Yes, for me it’s not an either-or; it feels like a both-and. No one can do it for you. You have to take responsibility. But at the same time you can still be part of a group of people who check in and hold one another accountable or provide support. You may also be out there doing your own thing, but there’s still an energetic connection to the group.