It is an uncomfortable time for me to be a man. Every day, we learn of new predations, mostly committed by men – violence against women, abuse of children, poaching, war, the destruction of the environment, our deeply troubled civic and political structures, violent crime, wars and genocide and civil war, raging cruelty online, conspiracy theories and rage.
At times I feel men are destroying both our democracy and our world. I know I am generalizing – there are many good men, and many cruel women – but the larger picture becomes clearer to me all the time. Men are broken and bleeding.
And don't be fooled. As awful and cruel and violent as they can be, it is no fun to be a man who hurts people, lives in greed, seeks power and domination. They are lonely and broken. There is no peace or freedom inside of them. They get no joy from what they do, only delusion.
Grounded and content people do not harm or dominate other people.
Perhaps because I am one, I feel great empathy and even pity for men, and dream of our liberation, something I have personally tried to experience in recent years. I seek to be less of a man, not more.
My life lesson has been to let go of power, not fight for it. To respect the intuition and compassion of women, and support it.
To recognize my powerlessness and accept it.
We men confuse bravado and bluster with strength, and we are taught from our earliest days to oppress others who have less status than we do.
We create a dishonest pecking order and pride of cynicism and sense of superiority that is false and hurtful.
We oppress racial minorities, people of different identity, the gay, the transgender, and women. We despoil the earth, despoil our environment, and slaughter the animals of the wild.
We practice the persecution and oppression of the poor and vulnerable and call it greatness, even justice.
In the absence of real achievements towards improving the safety and security of our world, we practice cruelty and call it progress.
We make little positive progress in the world, we create division to boost our own self-esteem. We obsess with winning, not with doing good.
Men's liberation is much more difficult than women's liberation, writes the philosopher Richard Rohr in his book From Wild Man To Wise Man.
"Women know they are oppressed, and that in itself is the beginning of liberation," Rohr writes. "Women know the games men play, whereas we men do not even recognize the system as a set of games. Even when we do recognize it, we believe that's simply the way the world is, the way life has to be." We rig the systems of the world, then defend them as moral.
In my life, I did learn that I was the oppressed as well the oppressor.
I did see that I had less power and achievement than I thought, and wanted even less. In my solitude, I did see that I was not really powerful, not superior and not awake to my own liberation.
I am humble about power when I see what most men have done with it, I feel shame and despair sometimes about being a man.
I simply cannot come to understand some of the things I am learning other men who say they are ethical and educated do to women every day, and I have seen a lot of hard things in my life, I am not naive.
In my marriage, I have learned to cede power. I am not the decision maker, I am not the King, I do not dictate our agenda. I have assumed a different role. I am the nurturer, I am the shopper, I am the cook. I like it, it is liberating. I support the work of my wife every day, insofar as I can.
Yesterday, a big man in a truck came to the door to ask if he could come onto our property and cut down the vegetation around some trees threatening power lines.
He asked me to show him our property line and I walked with him a few feet wondering where it was and what I should permit him to do. The door to the farmhouse opened and Maria came out.
She walks in those woods every day and knows every tree, and sometimes stops to kiss and touch them.
Here was the man with the big saw coming to cut down our trees and the woman who stops to see trees and love them will tell him what he can't and can't do. Unlike him or his company, she cares about the trees and their fate.
She walked right past me without a word and spoke to the big man. He seemed to forget that I was there, he could sense this was the person whose permission he needed.
I stopped walking and watched the two of them head towards the pasture to look at the trees. I was not upset. I was relieved. I wanted to get back to my writing.
No one noticed I wasn't there, or turned back to invite me to come along.
I knew the role of the man where I grew up was to talk to this big man and walk with him to the woods and pat him on the back and joke with him, and make tough and smart decisions about the trees while his wife stayed behind.
Such things were not for her to decide.
When the two came back out of the woods, Maria came up to me and said "I'm sorry, did I take that all away from you?" Yes, I said, you did, and I appreciate it. I don't know about those trees, I didn't know what to say, I didn't want to make those decisions.
I was relieved, liberated of the pressure to know all the answers and make all the decisions. I don't know much about too many things, I could use all the help I can get.
I was pleased to have a strong partner who knows more things than I do and is not the least bit anxious about walking into the woods with a huge man and his chainsaw and telling him what he could and couldn't do. To watch out for the trees. A parable, I thought, for male liberation.
Do less, not more, shed power, don't seek more of it.
I think the path for liberation for me isn't to keep power, but to let it go. We men are not really in charge, as the news reminds us every day, we are just beginning to see that, some of us. We cannot control the world, or make it safe, let alone manage our own lives. And we certainly can no longer control women. We have failed in our power.
I believe that women will do better than men have done, show more empathy, care about the earth, speak in gentler ways and listen more sincerely. They might just save the world.
It is only in solitude and humility, I learned, that my inner freedom as a man could grow.
In those years alone on the first Bedlam Farm, I learned to find my lonely place, and go there to learn how to change my life. A life without a lonely place, that is a life without a quiet center or a place to reflect, can so easily become destructive, as we learn every day.
The men I see on television or sent to Washington don't seem to have lonely place, they are just lonely. And angry. And their world is beginning to crumble, even if they can't see it yet.
In his book about the need for wiser men, Rohr quotes from one of Jesus's most provocative and ignored statements: "It is harder for a rich man to know what i am talking about, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle."
Most men don't get it and can't get it, at least not yet. The will. That is the task of a liberation movement for men.
I learned that I could never liberate myself from all of this male power and anger until I understood that I needed liberation from being a man.
I am still working on it.