Truthful News

E.02 Men and the Hero’s Journey

With Tony Rezac & Special Guest Mark Jackson

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Today’s guest is Mark Jackson 

I was born in Chicago, grew up in Massachusetts and New York, attended a Waldorf school, studied philosophy at Williams College, and became a professional actor for 25 years, working in Manhattan, in theater, and on television, in soap operas, where I played every form of law enforcement officer there it.
I’m now the senior film critic for the Epoch Times. I was accepted to the Rotten Tomatoes film review website a few years ago. I also host a News podcast called America Daily Top Story.
In my spare time, I like to invite my fellow colleagues at work to join a weekend New Warrior men’s group where men can go through the Male initiation and experience the benefits of being in a healthy Male community.

Show Transcript:

Hello, welcome to Basecamp for Men. I’m your host, Tony Rezac. This is the show that gives you insights and resources on how to live a more courageous life. We’ll be looking at men, the current state of masculinity, how to create a more inspiring narrative for all men.

Welcome and let’s get started.

I absolutely love the myth of the Hero’s Journey and I use it all the time. Joseph Campbell called it the great mono-myth as it was present at all times in all cultures. It has been with us as long as we’ve been here. Myths speak the universal language of the heart and so are not dependent on a particular religion or way of thinking. As you read and then interact with this myth, it teaches you deep truths about what it means to be human, what it means to be a man, and what direction we need to go to do our part to help the world and its people. What is this myth trying to teach us? For one thing, it’s teaching us that we need to be courageous every day. We need to be vigilant and discerning about our habits so that we don’t find ourselves just going through the motions of our lives.
When you start to live more mythically, you start to get more connected to the heart. You get more connected to the Divine and to a personal destiny. You feel connected to something greater than yourself and pulled out of your comfort zone. It feels exhilarating and enlivening. The more you say yes to this myth, the more clearly you will be shown your unique road. That is how it works.
Men, your comfort zone is your enemy. I hate to tell you that but it’s true. I know we all love to be comfortable but it will kill your chances of looking back on your life and honestly saying that you lived courageously. Our tendency is to think that the Hero’s Journey is only for these sort of epic historic figures like Gandhi, Dr. King, Mother Teresa. We rarely suspect that the archetypal hero in the story of our lives is us. Isn’t that interesting? Carol Pearson is a great writer and teacher of the Hero’s Journey and I hope to have her on the show soon.
Here’s how she describes the Hero’s Journey. And I quote,

“As you go on a quest to find greater vitality and life for yourself, you also seek answers that contribute to a collective transformation. In fact, anytime you identify a wasteland element in your life such as illness, boredom, lethargy, alienation, emptiness, loss, addiction, failure, anger or outrage, it is time to take a journey. You can be called to quest by such dissatisfaction or simply by a desire for adventure. The journey will inevitably transform you.” And then she goes on to say,

“Heroes are agents of change. The hero’s task has always been to bring new life to an ailing culture. So here you can see that you can be called out onto a new path by a sense of adventure or a sense of loss or boredom or even addiction. All can be seen as a call to the hero’s journey when viewed from this great mono-myth. When you step out onto a new path, it signals that the hero is leaving base camp and the world starts to shift and shape to the new reality. Change is afoot.”

And before get to our interview, I’d like to read you just one last quote.

I love this quote because it kind of perfectly captures the spirit of the Hero’s Journey.

“I have always known that at last, I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know it would be today.”

Narihira

And here’s our interview. Alright Mark Jackson, welcome to the show it is great to have you on.

Mark: Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Tony: So we’re talking about lots of men stuff on this show and the first few episodes are really sort of foundational. We’re talking about the initiation of men. We’re talking about men’s work, the power of men’s groups, the Hero’s Journey. What sorts of issues do you see many men struggling within our culture right now? What do men need to learn to grow into mature, strong, powerful men? What’s a couple of things that you see is missing for them?

Mark: I believe the childhood to manhood rite-of-passage has gotten lost! You know, as described in the Mankind Project, you’ve got Bar Mitzvahs, but not everybody’s Jewish, and you’ve got a high school football player, but not everybody’s a jock. How do you get the range for the in-between guys? How do they get their boyhood to manhood rite-of-passage?
The other example that’s given is the old Maasai tribe ordeal. They were an agricultural tribe and raised cattle in Africa & the lions would deplete their cattle. And so every once in a while they had the weed out the lion population. And so the boyhood to manhood rite of passage was when a boy reached the age of 16, he had to go out and kill an 800-pound African male lion with a thin sphere.
And maybe he weighed 130 pounds, you know, so the elders and the uncle will suddenly, with the warriors, they would come and they’d rip the boy out of the mother’s arms because she was distraught because she knew that he would go out there and kill that lion and come back a man or he was not going to come back at all. And either way, she was not going to ever see her little boy again. And so that was a big deal.

So I would highly recommend, do your Hero’s Journey and facing your fears and do your ordeal. Do a New Warrior weekend. It doesn’t matter when it happens. You can be your 90 and still do your initiation.

Tony: One of the things I see in men across the board is they don’t trust the larger community of men & haven’t been brought into the community of men. So there’s just kind of a “one-upmanship kinda competition” you know, kind of status. There’s no underlying resonance with other men. And it’s one of the great gifts of coming into the men’s work and being part of a group is you’re able to put your guard down and really speak authentically about the challenges you’re facing because men are going to face challenges all across the board. Doesn’t matter which walk of life or what country you live in or what your skin color is, what your sexuality is. You’re going to go through transitions. They’re going to challenge you. And the Achilles heel that I see in many American men is they just don’t think there’s a community of men there that they can relate to, talk to about their deeper concerns and their challenges that get them and understand them and can actually mentor them.
I see it in men where there is this kind of immaturity and lack of trust, a lack of that inner life, some depth to their inner life.
They can ask these deeper questions about what’s their mission, what’s their purpose? Maybe they’re going through a midlife crisis or just got divorced. And they always feel like they have to handle it alone. And you can just see it in their eyes that they’re scared, they’re isolated and they just aren’t getting the support from the male community that’s there.
Mark: Yeah, the whole concept of a male community is just not there. You probably get some of it in the NFL, but that’s such a business and some of these guys are, you know, we just see the stars, but there are lots of guys who were nursing all kinds of injuries and they’re not getting the full play on the team.
Maybe the Special forces teams and the Delta Teams all those guys. I think they have a very, very strong brotherhood from just having laid down their lives for each other that they can reach a level of trust, you know, and really care. So the question becomes how does that become available for an everyday guy?
And that’s what the weekend provides. That is what I remember that Sunday morning, the first Sunday morning, I mean not to give too much away, but then, when we’d all circled up and some veteran talked about, you know, the wars that were happening and for the first time in my life I felt this massive expansion out to all those men out there. They’re laying their lives on the line so we can have our freedoms over here. Those are my brothers. And it wasn’t just intellectual recognition. It was a visceral thing!  And that’s the community of men, what the brotherhood is, there’s just no way to tap into that in this day and age except for on the weekends that’s available to everyday guys.

Tony: That’s a great way to say it.  I have talked about what it’s like to be in a great man’s group. I mean, you make lifelong friends but if there’s also this kind of, I played on sports teams my whole life. I played college baseball and it’s like having a sports team in a good man’s group but without all the macho bullshit or you know you don’t have to be a jock to be in a good men’s group. Everybody’s in there. That kind of bond, almost like a canine bond that feels so familiar when you’re there and men don’t get that enough. You know you don’t get it by going out and having a few beers after work and talking about the Seahawks or the Yankees or whatever you, you don’t get it. But in those men’s groups, it creates that kind of strong bond among the men and it’s food for the soul. For me, I go back over and over again because why would I go without that? Like why would I go it alone when I know there’s such a better way to do it?

Mark: Right, right and the Originators of the weekend and all of the guys who, who started to tap into the fact that they recognize that men are carrying around a tremendous amount of grief and they don’t know how to let go and you can’t really share this stuff to girlfriends and wives (maybe a little bit) but not to the extent where you can in, and that’s the thing that most men think, oh I can’t, I can’t show my feelings in this group of men cause I’ll just get, you know, hounded and harassed and bullied, shaved and then you find out it’s the opposite. It’s like that’s where you take all your heavy stuff because men can deal with it.

There’s a movie that just came out, the documentary called The Work that’s something that I recommend to guys who want to know what this is about. They took the men’s weekends into Folsom prison did this with the scariest guys on the planet, the warden of Folsom Prison.

He basically took a huge gamble and he allowed this thing to happen where all of these gang members from these different gangs, Crips, Bloods, and the Skins, which is a native American group and White Supremacists and Latin Kings, all these super scary guys, they put them together in a big room with no supervision.

It’s like an atomic bomb could go off in there and you just see like the power of this work to unify these guys and turn them all in the brothers. I mean it’s the most, it’s the most draw-dropping thing I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend that you can get it, but that shows the potential of doing these men’s weekends.

Tony: I would love to staff. You know Eric Hanson staffed in Folsom on a number of times. I would love to do it,but it also sounds terrifying. Everybody that’s ever staffed one that I’ve talked to is like what an experience that was. I feel drawn to it because I have a ton of empathy for men that are in the prison system. I feel like many of them just were young men like we’ve been talking about, didn’t get brought into the male community or grew up without fathers.
These men had all this energy and restlessness as young men without a mission, got into a gang or got into crime, made a couple of bad choices and then got locked up for who knows how long. And I just have a ton of empathy for these men and I’m going to be exploring that topic in this show a bit too and we’ve got some men lined up that want to talk about that.

But is that something you would ever consider doing? I think it’s one thing to staff a weekend. It’s another thing to say I’m going to go to a maximum security prison and staff there. You know.

Mark: I thought it was an awesome idea. Turning it over in my mind. But time sort of passed and I never ended up doing it. Well, once I saw the movie, I was like, yeah, maybe I would like to do that. I do feel like I would have to get back involved with regular staffing because I would want to be on my game right away. You know, some guy who’s been locked up for double homicide for and I would need to be on my game.

Tony: I remember Jim Mitchell who was a teacher of ours said, how do you deal with all this powerful stuff that comes up on the weekends? And he said that once you’ve staffed in Folsom, once you’ve staffed prison and you get the rage and helplessness of a man who’s never going to see the light of day, then this other stuff is very manageable because there is nothing like the pain of a man who’s never going to see freedom, you know, and you’re trying to help him get inner freedom inside of that system. He didn’t say it’s a cake walk but he goes, once you’ve done that, this stuff is, it’s not nearly as challenging as you might think.
Mark: Yeah. I remember what he said. Facilitating this process of clearing anger at each other. They want to clear the air. So you know, starting to get bored with this stuff. But if you go into to go into Folsom prison and do a clearing between a Crip and a white supremacist that’s going to stand your hair on end.
Tony: Yeah, a little bit. Right. A little pent up rage there.
Mark: With that level of rage, you need some very skilled facilitation.
Tony: So just a couple last questions. So I remember you saying that you read Lord of the Rings like every year for like 20 years or 15 years or something.
Mark: I heard that prior to being hired onto the movie, all the cast had read the Lord of the Rings, like over and over and over for years. And I was like, well, I missed out on that since you know, I’m an actor. I missed out on a lifetime role because I did that too. I read it 52 times the entire series plus to Hobbit and a couple of times in German too.
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Tony: What was it about it, like what was so compelling about that particular telling of the Hero’s journey for you?

Mark: Well, I think it’s a bunch of things. You know, I’m a writer. It’s very, Tolkien was just a hell of a writer. It’s great, great storytelling. I mean all of those things going on like Gollum creeping around and Smaug and Shaylab and all those creatures.

ORCS you know it’s tremendous drama and just fantastic storytelling. But also I think it is the fundamental hero’s journey and the path to enlightenment. It’s an enlightenment tale.

You know, Frodo and Sam down in Mordor on their last legs, burning off all our Karma. And the one ring represents addictions and attachments. Slip off this ring and throw it into Mt. Doom and destroy it. And then they go to the gray havens, which is basically enlightenment. You know, being strapped down into Samsara, which is the cycle of earthly reincarnation. They slipped off that noose. So I, you know, I didn’t know any of that growing up.

I just thought it was a great tale. But looking back now, and this presumes that you believe in reincarnation and Karma and stuff, but most people who get involved in spiritual practices have been people who have had many, many lifetimes where they have burned off lots or Karma within that lifetime, which means they were, you know, maybe a monk or a nun, which is, that’s what that does is constantly taking care of your karma. Most of them don’t accumulate more. And I also think it was the sort of the remnants like coming over the millennia from previous incarnations of that understanding that you have to run a text over and over again.

I think that was my precursor to my study that I do now because of this, this book main book of Falun Dafa, I’ve read over 109 times. Now, you know, we’ve got a guy, an Indian practitioner who’s read it close to 800 times. That’s how you cycle this stuff. So I think that was sort of the underlying subconscious thing that attracted me.

Falun Dafa Meditation

Tony: Well, it’s funny too, you know, when you were a young man, you were drawn to reading Lord of the Rings over and over again as a ritual, which is this complex multi-layered tale of the Hero’s Journey with all this information that’s kind of underneath the storyline. And you were gathering all this information. Then later on you would be somebody who would be very sort of aware of your Hero’s Journey.

I just find it really interesting. And one of the things about that story I find fascinating is it’s not just one character. You know, all these characters are having their Hero’s Journey. They’re all facing demons in the story but it’s really about their inner demons that they’re facing all throughout. And it’s a super fascinating story.

I’ve always resonated the most with Aragorn because he’s the reluctant king who is questioning his own bloodline as being suitable to be a king. And that is what really resonates with me. And when I ask people “what character do you resonate with the most”? And some people say, Oh, Sam, or, Frodo, or Gandalf, etc. Now as you look back, which is the one character that you most identify within the story? Aragorn has always been the one where I’m like, yeah, I’ve got a little bit of that kind of reluctant, I don’t really have the bloodline for true leadership.

Mark: For me, it has always been Gandalf ..hahaha

Tony: I knew you were going to say that! And with good reason, right? So why?

Mark: From day one it was always these little superpowers, a little one with the firecrackers and stuff that he’d entertain the Hobbits with, but then he’d get into these mighty battles would fall down through the earth and die and then reincarnate and come back as Gandalf The White, with even more powers.

Tony: Yeah. So just to finish, I got one more question. So what do you want us to remember you for Mark? What would you like your legacy to be?
Mark: Well that is a big question. What always comes up for me is what Laurence Olivier said, you know, he was the world’s greatest stage actor and he said he wanted to have his epitaph read on his gravestone to just say “He was funny”. LOL!
I always liked that and thought I’d like to have some of that may be. Basically, I think Integrity to help people get on their Hero’s Journey and listening to others with a compassionate ear and try and offer solutions to people who don’t see any light in the darkness.
And you know, on one hand, I thought very much about the very esoteric aspects of this. So I don’t feel like I can really talk about it, but I’d say I think, yeah, help people along their, their path.
Tony: Well, you’ve certainly done that. And you’re a man that I’ve known you a long time. You’ve displayed immense courage in the choices that you’ve made in your life.
And one of the ways you’re going to be remembered for is as a role model of putting first things first. Of not being distracted. You’re a man who’s “walked the talk” on his deepest spiritual path and the wisdom of his deepest spiritual knowing. And you’ve always been somebody who I’ve held up is as somebody who is one of my friends making powerful choices on his Hero’s Journey. So I need to do my part to keep up with you. You’re somebody who had a tremendous amount of growth and I just appreciate all the things that you’ve done to help men, in particular, come to a greater understanding & find these trainings. To find a way that they can live their lives that are more connected to their heart, more connected to their mission, more connected to their spirituality as you brought people into Falun Dafa.
So thank you for all your hard work and your commitment and it’s made a huge difference.

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Mark Jackson. I would like to thank Mark for his insight and wisdom. Mark mentioned a couple of things you might want to go check out.

One is a movie called “The Work”, which is how men’s work is applied in a maximum security prison, super powerful movie that takes place in Folsom prison and is really compelling stuff.

And the other one is his spiritual practice called FALUN DAFA. And for more information on that, you can go to falundafa.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

And from that website, you can download their central book,

which is called Zhuan Falun.

Zhuan Falun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So go have a look and we’ll see you next week. That’s our show for today, men.

Remember that the story of your life is not yet all told. I’m Tony Rezac and thank you for listening to Basecamp for Men.

 

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