Over the last two years, I’ve been glued to online news media. It has become altogether a questionable habit as I find myself moving from one unsettling story to the next. I’m working to get a grip. The upside, though, is that I’ve also discovered great writers and compelling studies about what’s going on in the world, from climate change to local and global politics, from women’s and men’s issues to health and family life.

Take kids for instance. Years ago, Carol Gilligan showed that girls up until age 9 or 10 are confident and expressive of their feelings. But as they move into adolescence, they begin to hide their feelings for fear of not fitting in. Now my newsfeed tells me that boys are also born with a great talent for emotional openness, but that in adolescence they begin developing their manhood and differentiate themselves from girls. As a result, they often turn stoical, unemotional, tough and apathetic. The authors of one study report that girls begin to say, “I don’t know” and boys to say, “I don’t care.” In this way, children begin to push away from emotional honesty and deep connection.

And then we become adults. As adults, we’re meant to seek purpose in our lives, unfold work that sustains us, participate in building our communities, find partners and, if we choose, raise families. Yet today we find ourselves in the midst of unprecedented cultural disruption. Studies are showing that we have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. One report describes a “crisis of connection.” We could wonder whether this is because of exponential growth of social media. We readers of news have also learned that suicide rates among youth in the US have gone up 70% in the last decade. And that is only the beginning. Articles tell us about machines taking over human jobs, furious political tribalism, climate upheavals; the list goes on. Just finding time to read about how to protect one’s privacy online is a challenge. What are women and men to do? David Brooks, writing about societal changes in the New York Times says that, “All of this was survivable when religion played a bigger role in national life, with its gospel of mercy, charity and love. But now we have an ethos of detachment and competition all the way down.”

When our roles in society were more strongly defined, we knew what was expected of us. Now, having earned our hard-won freedoms to choose how we want to live and work and be in relationship, many people find themselves confused. Many women have lost an awareness of the feminine qualities that are their birthright and what those mean to the world and to their partners and families. Men question how they are meant to express their masculinity in a time when relationships in the workplace and other places are becoming charged.

… we need to recover our coherence between the masculine and the feminine in this day when there has been so much cultural dislocation.

Who are we to ourselves? Do we still need each other? Is it possible for a woman to have a full-time job, build her work or practice, raise her children, participate in relationship and community– and still have time to settle into and express her deep feminine nature? Can a man today be fully engaged in his work life, stay on top of the demands of his business or career, keep abreast of what’s happening in the world, look out for his family’s future, be sensitive to his partner’s concerns, self-monitor so that he expresses his sexual attractions appropriately, and still stay connected to his masculine potency? Because we now have myriad choices presented to us in this hyper info-media world, many men and women are taking on unprecedented roles for which we have no successful models. While breaking ground, we need to recover our coherence between the masculine and the feminine in this day when there has been so much cultural dislocation.

Related Events

Learn more about Retreat and Renewal for Women, Men and Young Adults

Learn more about Sacred Awakening: Initiation into Adulthood for Young Men

Learn more about Sacred Emergence: Initiation into Adulthood for Young Women

In traditional cultures, adults took time to sit with elders and ground themselves in their roles and their work as men and women in the community and the culture. If I were writing the headlines, I’d call for a place where women could rediscover their deep feminine nature while holding on to their immense capacity to move the culture toward creativity, connectivity, nurturing, relationship, balance, and beauty in all its expressions. And I’d call for a place for men to re-enliven their capacities for order and taking action for the good of the family, the effectiveness of the community and the health of the culture all the while sharing their masculine brotherhood. I’d send out the invitation far and wide to join such circles of women or men as a place to be inspired, challenged and invigorated through authentic expression of self, and witnessing of self in others.

And while I don’t promise to completely forego my laptop media consumption in the New Year, I am compelled to push back from my desk and better use what I glean to inspire action for innovation — in real-life nourishing relationships, in our circles, our meetings, our fires, here and now. These times of social crisis are calling for each of us to step up. How will you join me?

Sacred Fire regularly offers Gatherings for Women and Men in special retreat settings. Attendees speak of the welcome restoration and inspiration they experience through their participation.