Words from Men
an excerpt from Martin Brossman’s upcoming book, "Finding Our Fire"

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The following is a representative sample from a group of responses to illustrate the variety of questions addressed in the book Finding Our Fire. The actual names of the men that contributed are not used, to protect their confidentiality. The book consists of chapters on different topics that men have brought up as issues in their lives during the 10 years that the Men’s Inquiry Meeting has existed. Over 100 men are expressing their personal responses to questions, giving a unique insight into the inner world of men. 

How can commitment to our mission and core values give us freedom?
Commitment to my mission and core values gives me energy; focused enabling energy. That energy pours over into the other areas of my life. My life is rewarding to the extent I am interested in it. Being engaged in what I believe is worthwhile gets me interested. But it’s more than that, my mission as I understand it is my closest connection with my creator. The more I get in touch what I am here for, the more I understand my uniqueness, my value and my potential contribution. This is the antidote to being “stuck” in my old habits, self limiting thoughts and inaction, in mediocrity. Connecting to my mission calls out my best qualities and moves me into action in ways that serve to keep me inspired, humbled and engaged.

What keeps you awake to the beauty and passion of life?
What keeps me awake to the beauty and passion of life is the experience of loss.  Sept. 11th, the death of a grandparent, news of the death of a child all remind me how special my life is and that I need to be thankful for it. Another thing that keeps me awake to the beauty and passion of life is the vastness and greatness of nature.  Gazing at the Rocky Mountains, experiencing a 20 knot wind on a beam reach in my sailboat, or feeling the rush of class IV whitewater all make me realize how small and insignificant I am, and that I should be more aware of taking advantage of every day of my life. Finally, meeting a person who has sacrificed much to make a difference in others lives.  Whether it is the parent of a disabled child, a person who has dedicated their life to charity, or a person who has taken on a cause and is making an impact one person at a time, makes me realize that a successful life is a state of mind.

What is the human soul?  What happens when you ignore your soul?
The human soul, in my opinion, is the eternal core of who we really are. It is the internal source behind why I seek beauty and connection with others. It is the energy that mandates that I feel and have compassion.  It is the essence that tugs on my heart to give again and again. It is what propels a mother to lay down her life for her child. It is what causes a man to work a lifetime for the benefit of the world. It is the passion that sends an athlete soaring through the air. It is the tears that fill a man's eyes when he bows a knee to propose. It is the air that fills a parent's lungs when their young child looks into their eyes. It is what holds up a man when he teaches his son that life is beautiful, despite his struggles at work. It is what speaks, through wisdom, to let go and allow change.

When I ignore my soul it is what haunts me with a sense of emptiness until I start honoring it with my actions, aligned with its intention. I seem to have lost my soul many times in the past then suffer until I  find it again, then lose it again and suffer, then find it again and so on. I usually lose it to some mild or great current addiction. When I stay true to it my life works better but I can not quite state in words what it is. I feel many jobs and responsibilities have wrung it out of me ‘til I can not stand the pain any more than I do something about my situation.

Did you accept your mother’s interpretation of your father, or really see him for his true blessing and shortcomings on your own?
My "mother's interpretation" of my father was brutal, haranguing and lethal to my developing a positive sense of masculinity.  It was hard to filter out her hostility and see him as he actually was.  I am still experiencing him and developing an appreciation for the man. My mother's interpretation of my father was overwhelming to me as a child.  It has taken many years to bless his true nature, and I still suffer from having him taken from me as a role model by her.

The following is are excerpts of what men gained from being involved in contributing to the book: 

What are the main insights you gained out of answering the questions (in the book Finding Our Fire) and what actions have you committed to, or will commit to, doing based on the insights?
As I have been answering the questions posed for this book, many things are happening.  I am thinking about what I have written, sometimes way after I've written it.  I am seeing myself and listening to my own answers as though I am someone else.  The way that this seems to be helping is that looking like this is clearer and without my judgments.  It's helping me see what is true rather than what I have distorted. 

For example, I found myself writing about my experiences with my father.  He may not have been as cruel or violent as I wrote.  Maybe I portrayed him unfairly.  He didn't know how to express love, and yet I know he loved.  His intentions were good.  His work ethic was strong.   He came from a life of hardship and cruelty in the old country and here in the US also in the early 1900s.  Several of his brothers died in prison.  And his family was broken, with young children put out on their own or in his reckless care. 

He had bursts of meanness and violence.  But, at the tenacious and caring hands of my mother I saw him reform and soften as he aged, with his desire to be responsible to his own family of six.  My mother got the $96 weekly paycheck and she gave him $10 for all his expenses.  He often worked dangerous jobs for extra money.  He always came to watch me in sports.  He was not educated.  I was ashamed of him.  He wasn't afraid of anyone.  He seemed stingy but was generous to his family.

I am hurt that I only got brief dialogues with him, and none when I was older.  I feel he had a lot to tell me about and I want to know now... but can't.  Yes, as a boy he hurt me physically and it was a struggle psychologically too.   But, I see now I was strong enough that it didn't harm me in any meaningful way.  Perhaps it even inspired me to be not like him... and it is taking me a long time to be Not like him.  He was unpredictable, often hypocritical in raising me, and he was prejudiced against ‘Negros’ being in the neighborhood.  This bothered me a great deal, even as a small boy and it has turned into my being my own lifelong watchdog for my prejudices.  And prejudices creep into everything, interfering with my seeing the 'real' thing.  And this has turned into my greatest aspiration-- to listen fully. 

So, when I first wrote about all this in answering the questions for the book, my memories were vague.  But, as I wrote they became vivid.  And my story was created.   

My insight is that there is more to me than surfaces regularly in the day-to-day world; a bit of mystery, a bit of myth, a bit of me that is hidden and needs to be released.  My commitment is to continue with men's work to uncover myself for a fuller richer life.

This process and joining the Inquiry group has been a way of identifying the gold in my life.  Thank you so much for reminding me that I am capable of being who I am and being proud of it. Where do men get this today?

I found out that many things I thought were ‘just my problem’ I share with many men. This is a lot, I mean a lot!

Martin, I would not have kept going without your encouragement through contributing to this book, dedication and support. You are a very good man!
We men do well when we see the beauty in ourselves and walk beside each other in our separate journeys.

The questions alone were worth the price of admission! Seriously, I got as much out of reading the questions as I did out of replying to them. What have I committed to do different? I could answer something for almost every chapter of questions. One of the main items is realizing that my parents did the best they could in the situation they were in. They almost changed before my eyes as I asked the questions over and over. I can not imagine a man’s life would not change by reading these questions, in fact I can imagine a woman’s would not as well.

"Finding Our Fire" is based on the Men’s Inquiry Group which has been meeting monthly in person and on-line for over 10 years. In the Inquiry meetings, men explore questions about their lives  that give new insights and new actions to take. The meetings have inspired men to enhance their relationships with their families, improve their jobs, and resolve old issues in their lives that previously held them back. 

The book is a multi-purpose tool:   it can simply enhance the individual reader's life, or it can serve to facilitate the formation of a men's group to support ongoing growth on a broader scale.  It also provides a much-needed impartial window into the inner world of men that seems to improve women's understanding of men and men's understanding of themselves.  The compelling questions have had a powerful impact on the men whose responses are included in the book, and many of those who have seen  preview chapters are looking forward to enthusiastically using the questions in their men's workshops and seminars across the country.

"Finding Our Fire" speaks in the authentic voice of men helping men by simply contributing their own life experiences.  It is a true showcase of the emotional courage of men--something you do not hear much about in society today!  A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to support The Triangle Men's Center in NC and The Men's & Women's Inquiry

Martin Brossman is the co-VP of Raleigh Men's Center and leads the Triangle Men's Inquiry meeting. For more info go to: www.toinquire.com., call him at (919) 847-4757 or email: men@toinquire.com Email Martin to be on the notification list of the up-coming book, “Finding our Fire” in 2006.

Click here to see the cover of the up-coming book "Finding our Fire"

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