There is an apocryphal story in the African wildlife community about male elephants. Apparently, somewhere in Kenya there had been so much poorly planned culling that a group of young male elephants were left on their own, doing a lot of damage. (Elephants are totally community oriented. When humans try to lessen their numbers, they have to destroy the whole herd or those that are left will go crazy.) The young guys were stomping down fences and destroying crops. They just could not be contained. So someone who understood their horrible confusion and grief figured out what was needed. They airlifted some major bull elephants from South Africa and put them down with the rampaging teenagers. According to the story, these older male elephants had the boys calmed down within a week.
Today I sat and read about Sir Patrick Stewart (remember Picard from StarTrek?) and other men who are saying no to violence against women. What I love about what he is doing is how personal he has allowed himself to be — he talks of his father’s violence towards his mother and how he is only now able to speak about it. Like me (I hope I am like him), he is an elder now and being pushed by some deep internal river to bring the secrets out, to give voice to the struggles of the masculine in all its complexity.
It is deeply comforting to me to feel these public men out there, doing what I cannot do: speaking about what it is to be a man. Stewart talks about something I had only really heard articulated well by my friend David Rubine who founded the Cornerstone Community working for several decades with men. Both talk about how the passionate, testosterone-driven energy of men is so often perverted from its potential as a huge life-giving energy for creativity. When it is put into service to build things, support things, protect things, dream, move, create — it is in alignment with its greater purpose. When it has no boundaries and is inflamed, it can do unimaginable damage.
Stewart is the host of a global campaign called Ring the Bell asking men to make concrete promises to help end violence against women and girls. Grammy-award winning singer Michael Bolton, Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings, Don McPherson, a former NFL quarterback and so many more men have already joined the One million men. One million promises movement, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.
I am moved to tears by the arrival of the bull elephants.