Warriors and the Planet
An Interview with Jed Diamond
© 1994 by Bert H. Hoff
This article appeared in the June 1994 issue of M.E.N. Magazine
Jed Diamond, long a national leader in Menís Work, has just published a book, The Warriorís Journey Home: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Planet. Bert took the opportunity to talk with him at the Wingspan National Leaders Conference in Indianapolis last fall.
Bert: Perhaps the way to start is to have you talk about your own journey and where that has taken you. How did you come to be in the space you are in, to write The Warriorís Journey Home?
Jed: Three streams that have come together for me in this work. The earliest one came for me in 1965, when I started to work in the addictions field. I had started out in addictions as a professional, after graduate school at Berkeley and even a bit of medical school. I had heard that if I was going to do addiction work, it was important to learn about 12-step work. I remember deciding that I should go to some 12-step meetings, at least so I would know where to refer "those" people, the people who had the problems. Of course, I didnít think I had any of those kind of problems.
I went for about six months as an observer. I grew increasingly uncomfortable as time went on, until I recognized that the issues that the drug addicts and the alcoholics were dealing with were the same issues I was dealing with. They were saying "my alcohol use or my heroin use is out of control, yet I continue using it in spite of the problems it causes." All of a sudden a light bulb went on for me. That was how my sexual and relationship life was. I would get involved in compulsive sexual and love relationships. I would set limits and say that I would never get involved with anybody like that, and then I would. I would do it even though it cause stress, pain and hurt in my life.
So I began to recognize that it wasnít just "them" that had addictions, but it was me, too. That was the first thread of my work, recognizing that I was part of the addict community.
The second theme in my life developed when my son Jemal was born, in 1969. Prior to that, his mother and I got married in 1966 and she rapidly moved into feminist thinking. I found it very valuable, because often it wasnít "us against you," but a developing thought about the restrictions that were put on peopleís lives. I remember, probably in 1967, going to a womenís conference. There were about 2,500 women, and perhaps seven or eight men. It was overwhelming. Women came up to be and said, "Iím glad youíre here. We need men who are sensitive, not only to our issues, but to your own as well." So I always felt this kind of identification with the need to change the roles. You couldnít change womenís roles without changing menís roles. Theyíre really opposite sides of the same coin.
When my son was born I really had this feeling that I wanted to be a different kind of dad than the father who had raised me. For me what that meant was being present at his birth, going through the Lamaze process, and holding him. When he was born, the first thing they did was hand him to me. This was after their request that I leave the delivery room. At that time you didnít know if you would be allowed to stay in the delivery room. It was up to the doctor. So when the time came the doctor said, "Mr. Diamond, youíll have to wait in the waiting room with the other fathers." I had this mixture of relief, that I wouldnít make a fool of myself or pass out, and this utter feeling of sadness. I had been through 14 hours of labor. I remember walking down the long hallway to the waiting room when something shifted in me. Some part of me said that I couldnít do it. I donít know if it was some beginning understanding of my manhood and inner strength, or whether it was the power of the new life that was coming into the room. I remember just walking back down the hallway, into the delivery room, and taking my place at the head of the delivery table. There wasnít any question of asking for permission, or leaving if I were asked. I was just there. When Jemal was born I had this overwhelming feeling of rightness, that I was there.
That was the beginning of my involvement in the menís movement.
The third stream came about four years ago. Iíve been very health consciousness. Iím a runner, and I felt I took good care of myself physically and emotionally. But at that time I lived in the big city. I was born in New York, grew up in Los Angeles, and was living in the Bay area. I worked in a fairly high- stress job, counseling. I considered that I was healthy. Out of the blue I found out that I had an adrenal tumor that was life-threatening. The doctor told me that most people who get it die before they know they have it. Itís very rare. I had the surgery, then started to ask how did I get this? The doctor said that I probably just got it. I never believe that things are that simple, so I meditated on it. I got a strong and clear message that life in the city was killing me. It wasnít just the city life, but the pace of life. The adrenal gland is about adrenaline. I had written a book about the adrenaline addict, four or five years earlier. I was tuned into it, but not viscerally. "Itís all right for those guys, but not for me. I live in mellow Marin."
What I got was not just that I needed to slow down. I said, "Well, OK, Iíll drive more slowly, Iíll meditate more." I also said that I already had slowed down. I didnít do nearly what I used to. The meditation said, "Well yes, you have, but from about 100 to 85. Thatís excellent. But what we had in mind was about 9."
It was very clear that I needed to make an absolute life change. It took me out of the city, buying a little house on 22 acres of land, where I can walk out my back door, walk for three days, and not see any people. What I recognized when I got there was that the third thread of my life would be really reconnecting with the natural rhythms. Reconnecting with the sun as it goes through the sky, the rains, the seasons.
Bert: Letís go back a bit. You wrote Inside Out, Becoming My Own Man.
Jed: I wrote that back in 1983, before there was much energy around the menís movement. And it really wads an autobiography. It was my experience with Menís Work from the time I grew up until my sonís birth. I think it was one of the first books to articulate the process of menís - my personal - journey. Not as a statement of how men are, but a sharing of my own personal experience until then.
Bert: Then you saw the whole direction change, after your book comes out, as men get into the mythopoetic side. Robert Bly became famous.
Jed: I always had a difficult time, and still do, identifying with the myths, like the Greek myths, as they are written. I found that I needed to get more related to my own mythology, my own life story, what I grew up with, the myths from my family. That seemed to be much more tangible and useful to me than the more generic myths that look at major issues around men. I found that it needs to be personalized.
Bert: So youíre talking about the myths and stereotypes in your own life, that you were brought up to believe, but that donít work any more. For some of us, that might be the John Wayne myth.
Jed: Thatís a part of it, but there were other myths when I was growing up that were more significant. I have a whole mythology around my family relationships and what I was dealing with in my healing around sexual addiction. I realized that I came from a whole line of men who had acted out in sexual ways, before we knew anything about that. There was this whole area of male sexuality that was not the way it "ought" to be.
Probably even deeper than that was the story of the absent father. It seem like as far back as I can remember, the fathers left. Some of my ancestors left through death. Others left through divorce. But there was this bond between the mother and the children that was the sacrosanct bond. The men were expendable. The men were not necessary. So I grew up with that core belief that men are not very important. The real important bond is between the mother and the children.
I grew up with another myth that I saw, perhaps most vividly in a dream that came to me. In this dream I was at the bottom of an amphitheater. I was a small being at the bottom, terrified, looking up at all of these people looking down at me. I was naked. There was a spotlight on me. A voice rang out, "You have been put on this earth provisionally. In order to be allowed to stay ..." I screamed, "Please! Iíll do anything! Please let me live!" The voice said, "If youíre to be allowed to stay, youíll have to do it." "Please! Iíll do anything!" The voice said, "Do it!" I said, "What? What?" The voice said, "Do it."
I realized I had spent my life living that myth. I was running, faster and faster, trying to "do it," to be allowed the privilege of staying alive. But I never knew whist "it" was.
Bert: And the answer, then, is ...
Jed: For me it was, "Try harder."
Bert: As you tell your story, and the health problems you talked about earlier, the answer that came across for me was "Be it," not "Do it." Go into the country, get into the natural rhythms, and "be it."
Jed: Thatís the healthy recognition that I got, that the answer isnít in "doing" anything. The answer is to "be." I had to slow down enough, and let go of a whole mythology, a whole way of looking at the world. I didnít know there was anything else. In that scenario, if you donít "do it" youíll be snatched. As soon as you stop trying, youíre gone. Youíre dead. Youíre not worthy of staying. The terror that comes from letting go was only balanced by the terror that if you donít let go, youíll die.
I think that every addict, every person, has that dilemma thatís important in their life. It may come up more than once. You say, "I know that if I keep on the way Iíve been doing it, Iím going to die. On the other hand, if I stop doing that, and do the other thing, itís going to kill me." Thatís the dilemma that so many of us have. Out of that dilemma is that third space, that spiritual opening, that light that shines, that says there is another way.
Bert: I recently interviewed Marion Woodman, the Jungian psychologist. She presents an interesting view on addiction, that itís the self in search of spirit. The self that is not in touch with the body and wants to deny all those body things, but wants to find pure spirit and pure essence. A push for perfection. We need to get in touch with body and soul, and use soul as the connection to spirit. She describes it as a void, and Iíll do anything to fill that void.
Jed: I call it the "black hole." I have a mathematics of the black hole. I picture it as an energy inside. As in astronomy, anything that get close to it gets sucked in there. Nothing gets out. Itís terrifying. And the mathematics is that it wants to be filled. up. One of my clients, talking about his addiction, said "My drug of choice is Ďmore..í Whatever it is, I want more."
The feeling is that we have is that we have to fill up the black hole, but the mathematics of the black hole is that the more you fill it, the bigger it gets. "Iíve got to eat it to fill it up." "Iíve got to have sex to fill it up." "Iíve got to have alcohol to fill it up." The more you feed it, the bigger the hole gets. Thatís what I sense in what youíre saying. The nourishment that it needs is not physical. We look for the "spirits" in the alcohol. The root of spiritus is spirit, breath. The essence that is not material.
Bert: And for her the choice comes down to a choice between chocolates and Mozart.
Jed: Itís a good way to say it!
Bert: I havenít seen much that pulls together recovery and Menís Work. Is that your sense, too?
Jed: For me, having been doing years for 25 years, and recovery work for 28 years, they seem to be fairly separate. Menís Work touched on recovery, but it was not really focused on it. Recovery work touched on men, but it wasnít really the focus. What I find is that theyíre absolutely necessary to each other. In order to become mature men, we have to deal with the addictive side of us. In order for men to heal their addictions, they have to journey through the depth to find the manhood that we have lost connection with.
If we look at them as necessary parts of a single process you become aware of men doing Menís Work ending up in the shadows of their own bedrooms and the quiets of the dark nights, doing their addictive process. Their work doesnít get very far. You donít know why, because you donít hear heís been drinking or off on a sexual things.
And you have the other side, too. People who do the recovery work and have gotten through their addictions, but donít have that spark of the male spirit. They see themselves as, "Iím just a recovering alcoholic," or "Iím just somebody whoís done this healing from addiction." They donít recognize the importance of gender, of the sense of male spirit, in our lives. Again, we have a shadow process that needs to have some flesh on it.
Bert: The chill thatís coming up for me as you say that is that one of the major problems of addiction is denial. I can just hear men saying, "What do you mean, I'm not working on myself? Iím going to Wisdom Council. Iím in a men's group. Iím doing all this Menís Work stuff. Don't tell me Iím not working on myself. Just give me another beer."
Jed: Exactly. I think part of that is understanding the stages that I see the movements, both recovery and Menís Work, going through. When I started out, in 1965, the focus of both movements was really personal. "How do I deal with my own stuff? How do I get by?"
Somewhere around 1985 I started seeing that the personal was now getting deepened into an additional container that we might call the interpersonal. We started dealing with father wounds, mother wounds, incest issues and abuse issues. We went back and started healing our relationships. We said, "If I donít deal with my relationship with my wife or my husband or my lover, I end up having my own shit together, but my relationships fall apart. I canít ever seem to get my relationships on the road."
It seems to me that weíre just entering a third phase in the movements. Yes we need to continue our personal work. And yes, we need to continue to do our interpersonal work. But we're also beginning g to recognize that this third container is the container of the planet that we live on.
I think of it as a ship. Spaceship earth, this ship that is sailing out there, is sinking. If we look at all the signs, we see that itís going under. I think of the ship sometimes as the Titanic. Itís about to hit an iceberg. Itís about to come apart. If we don't attend to that, no matter how god my healing work is, as an individual, no matter how strong my interpersonal bonds are and how much father or mother energy Iíve healed, it all goes down. Doing my individual recovery work, doing menís groups on the Titanic, arenít going to help.
This is the third aspect that I talk about in my book. I talk about healing ourselves as men. I talk about the necessary stages of recover that I think we all have to go through. And I talk about how those two strands also are interwoven with the third strand, re-establishing our relationship with the planet.
Bert: Letís start off with the two strands. What is the warrior's journey home? Thatís wonderful imagery. We have this warrior energy, and we have to being it home into our own lives.
Jed: There are couple of image that I had. It started for me when I asked myself where my addictions began. It seemed clear to me when I looked at my personal history that they began in the early family structure. They began in the ways that I was treated by my mother and my father. The ways that I was touched inappropriately. The way I was abandoned. The way my father was not there when I was five.
But then I began to ask, "Where did they get that?" Because clearly they had family, too. It was clear to me that they got it from their family. I began to wonder that if we take it back, does it go back forever? Is this the human condition? Is this the way it is? Because if this is somehow inherent in what it is to be human, thereís not a lot of hope.
What I found was that the origin went back a lot earlier than a lot of people who have worked on this have suggested. Not just back to the Industrial Revolution, when we came off of the farms. I trace it all the way back to the transition period from hunter-gatherer cultures to what we call civilization, or the domestication of plants and animals. There are number of things that happened that touch on this, and that are important in understanding it.
Bert: Youíre in the same place as Allan Chinen is, in Beyond the Hero. The hero archetype, the king, the warrior, the magician, the lover, come from the civilization phase. But we have a prior history of a hunter-gatherer culture that honors the hunter and the trickster as two sides of the same coin. You need to trick and con your way through life, the same way you need to con game and invite game into your familyís stomachs.
Jed: Interesting. I didnít know that. But what I discovered is that for two million years, which is 99 and a half percent of human history, we have lived that way. We lived in balance with nature. We lived with relationships between men and women that were based on equality. We treated the earth with respect. We treated the animals as brothers and sisters.
Nobody knows why hunter-gatherers gave up being hunter-gatherers and became civilized. Maybe it was due to climatic changes. Or due to a loss of faith. It takes a lot of faith to believe that you can go out and find what you need each day, and not think "Well, weíd better put some in reserve, just in case." But once this mindset, this worldview, this story began, it spread throughout the world. And what the story, the mythology said was that the purpose of the planet was for humans to be in control. Animals, plants, everything is there for us. So we became separate from the plant and animals. We were not one one of them. They were there to be used. That was the origin of the first "users," the "addicts," if you will.
As Martin Buber says, we change from an "I-Thou" relationship to an "I-it" relationship. When we do that to the earth, we begin doing that to ourselves. We becomes "its" rather than "Thous" to ourselves. We lose connection between our minds and our bodies, between our hearts and our souls.
What we do to ourselves is then what we do to other men. If we treat ourselves with disdain, if we are violent towards ourselves, we become violent to other men.
And finally, what we do to other men is what we do to women and children. I think, in a way, my experience of the Menís Movement has been a reversal of that process. It started for me in recognizing my feminist roots and wanting to take better care of my women and children. It moved then when I started recognizing what I was doing to other men, the competition, the homophobia, kept me separate. As that developed, I began to see how much I was disconnected from myself. And now Iím recognizing that the next stage for me, the stage I talk about in the book, is a reconnecting to the earth.
So the warrior, in my mind, is the archetypal hunter. Thatís why I use the term "warrior" differently than many of the current people in the menís movement do. I have some question about the warrior, because itís attached to war. Itís got war in the title. Itís war oriented. I believe thereís an earlier tradition.
Take Tibet. I think the Tibetans are clearly warriors. But I think the Dali Lame has a very different spirit. In Tibet there is a word for warrior that comes from the Tibetan word pawoů, which literally translates as "one who is brave." In that tradition, warriorship is a tradition of human bravery. Itís a tradition of not being afraid of who you are. Thatís what bravery means. It doesnít mean killing other people.
I use warriorship in that context. Itís a form of warriorship thatís as old as human beings, going back to the original hunters. They were warriors in that they had to be brave. They had to know themselves. They had to know their place in the world. Thatís the essence of true warriorship. To recognize that we are part. We are not separate. It's is what the original warriors knew, and what we have forgotten in the last 10,000 years.
So the warriorís journey home is a re-remembering of our ancient roots. Itís coming home to the past. The traditional society, civilization is always looking to the future. Thatís progress. Anything important is forward. Anything in the past is "primitive" and "bad." We have that image of the hunter- gatherers living a life thatís nasty, brutish and short.
What we recognize now from anthropological studies is that they were the original affluent society. They spent three to four hours a day getting what they needed to live, and the rest of the time was for singing, for dancing, for talking, for communicating. Whatís necessary, it seems to me, if weíre going to survive as men, as human beings, as a culture, is that, number one, we have to recognize that this story that we created 10,000 years ago is a vehicle that was never meant to last. Itís like the Titanic. The new evidence of the Titanic is that it didn't sink because it hit an iceberg, it sank because it was structurally unsound. It was not constructed to last.
Our civilization, a civilization that separates and makes humans the end-all, is one which will not live. We need to recognize that this vehicle will not survive. Weíre in the last stages of it.
One image that I got was an image that this vehicle we are on, the Titanic, is sinking. Nothing we do on that vehicle is going to work. The essence of the book is that weíve got to get on a different vehicle. The image I had was of "underground rowboats." The Underground Railway in Civil War days was a process of helping slaves escape. The vision I have is that we need to escape from civilization. We need to get off this ship. The image I have is these underground rowboats that come alongside the ship. There will be thousands, millions them. Theyíll take people off and disappear under the water.
There isnít any one way to do it. The civilized view is that a savior is going to come and say, "Ah, this is what everybody needs to do!" Thesre alternatives all have only one thing in common. We have to recognize that we are part of the world. As the indigenous people say, "We belong to the earth. The earth does not belong to us. We are parts of the web. We are not builders of the web."
Within that, we can have a thousand variations, a thousand different menís groups, organizations, recovery groups, or whatever. Diversity is the essence of whatís going to keep us alive. Thatís what the book is offering, a guide for a particular way of looking at things that will allow people to create the thousands of different ways of doing this.
What they also have in common is that there are no leaders telling what you have to do. Every little boat will have its own leader. You have to row your own boat. You canít jump on somebody elseís vehicle and say "OK, weíll follow this leader, and just sit in the audience and listen." Whatever it is, youíve got to start rowing your own boat, even if you quite know we are youíre going.
Bert: An image came to my mind, that Martin Prechtel, the Mayan shaman at the Mendocino conference last summer, told me. They were having a sweat lodge in the Southwest, and some environmentalists were there. During the sweat, the environmentalists were praying for the earth, to save the earth. So the shaman pulled them aside, and said "No, no, donít do that. The earth will take care of itself. You'd better pray for your own ass!"
Jed: (laughing). Exactly! Thatís the essence of this. We need to find our home again. We are homeless. The image of homeless that is in the headlines, I think, is the metaphor for our time. Thatís why we canít fix the homeless problem. Because weíre all homeless. We feel disconnected from our own roots, from each other, from the earth. Thatís what needs to be fixed. And I think the only way to do that is to have another story. A different mythology. Joseph Campbell asked the question, "What myth are you living?" We as a culture have been living a myth that says that humans are the masters of the earth. Itís a myth that is like an aircraft that is not built based on the laws of flight. It wonít fly, no matter how hard you flap your wings and jump off a cliff. You're going to crash. And we as a civilization have created a craft, a mythology, a story, that wonít float.
Bert: Thereís another tie-in. You were just talking about these "primitive" cultures that only spend three hours a day to take care of all their worldly needs, and have all this other time for family, for ritual, and the like. You had said that your clientís addiction was "more." Civilization, then, might be a need to accumulate more, more that I could possibly use in my own life. Letís get gold cloth for the king. Letís store 20 years of grain over here. So the guy over there in the next kingdom can see it, and come in and need to attack us.
Jed: Exactly. You see, thatís what "more" is. Our civilization has lost the sense of enough. When you sit down to a meal and youíve had "enough," you stop eating. If you donít have the sensation of enough, you keep eating. This is where eating-disordered people keep eating and keep eating. Our civilization is a consumptive-oriented, addictive society. We are addicted to consuming the world.em aside and aisd, hem Weíve passed the enough point and we donít know what to do. And like the "black hole," the hunger remains and we eat more. In fact, what we donít recognize, and hopefully we will or we will not survive, is that we have to stop consuming the earth or we will die. The earth will do without humans.
Jed Diamond, a therapist and leader in Men's Work, is the author of Men: Inside Out, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, and The Warrior's Journey Home. Jed can be reached at 34133 Shimmins Ridge Rd., Willits, Ca. 95490. or by e-mail at: Jed@MenAlive.com