Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fathers, Uncles, and Older Men

It's been well over a decade now since Iron John was recommended to me to read. Now, looking back, a few people mentioned it at the time. Author Daniel Quinn was one of them. One day on an internet discussion board I asked him some questions about his current marriage that he talked about in his autobiography titled: Providence. I wanted to know how his current wife was able to deal with his infidelity in a previous marriage. Of course, I also wanted to know if it was possible for a woman to love me given that I'd just lived with my grandparents for five years during what was suppose to be the prime of my life (18 to 23 yrs. old). He answered the question in a way that made logical sense (He's good at that). And in his response he mentioned that I might want to check out Iron John. So, I did.

I've read it a couple of times since then. And the excerpt below has always stuck with me since the first reading. Why? I'll try to answer part of if below.

"Throughout the ancient hunter societies, which apparently lasted thousands of years--perhaps hundreds of thousands--and throughout the hunter-gatherer societies that followed them, and the subsequent agricultural and craft societies, fathers and sons worked and lived together. As late as 1900 in the United States about ninety percent of fathers were engaged in agriculture. In all these societies the son characteristically saw his father working at all times of the day and all seasons of the year.

'When the son no longer sees that, what happens? After thirty years of working with young German men, as fatherless in their industrial society as young American men today, Alexander Mitscherlich, whom we spoke of in the first chapther, developed a metaphor: a hole appears in the son's psyche. When the son does not see his father's workplace, or what he produces, does he imagine his father to be a hero, a fighter for good, a saint, or white knight? Mitscherlich's answer is sad: demons move into that empty place--demons of suspicion.

'The demons, invisible but talkative, encourage suspicion of all older men. Such suspicion effects a breaking of the community of old and young men. One could feel this distrust deepen in the sixties: 'Never trust anyone over thirty.'"--Pg.95, Iron John

My dad worked at the same factory for 30 years. I never once stepped into that place. I never once saw, felt, or touched what he produced. And, of course, like Bly said in the excerpt, the demons arrived. They're there today.

This is something, I think, we need to think about as we move ahead with this industrial experiment (I remember Derrick Jensen in his book Welcome to the Machine referring to it as Hell). The quote also reminds me of a conversation I had recently with my uncle. I ran into him at the local gas station. And while we were pumping gas we got to talking about the most recent school shooting. He thought maybe it would have helped if the guy had an uncle to take him out in the woods to atleast "plink away at tin cans." Like he used to do with me. And maybe the guy did, I don't know. But it's a perspective I take into consideration. He's my uncle. He's raised three kids. I've fished, hunted, and logged next to him.

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