Introduction to The Lost Possum

by | Jul 15, 2021

Introduction to The Lost Possum

At last count, Facebook provided its users with at least 58 different options for identifying their gender, including “Genderqueer,” “Intersex,” and “Two-Spirit,” whatever that means. There is also a “custom” option for those who are unable to find themselves in the list of 58, which is undoubtedly longer by now.

While I believe science offers plenty of proof for a non-binary, gender fluid view of humankind (a view I hold personally,) I also believe the vast majority of humans fall into the dominant categories of “female” and “male.” I for one identify as male.

Being male means more to me than just having a set of balls and a penis; it means being endowed with a powerful male essence and energy that naturally motivates men to take risks, penetrate through obstacles, and push toward our goals with purpose, drive, and mission. I like being male and I continually seek out ways to be a better one. This book is for anyone of any orientation who respects that vision.

I’m worried about men. I believe many of the world’s woes, from gun violence to domestic abuse to climate change, have their root cause in men’s health, which I submit is presently not good, nor has it been for some time now. I want to see that change, so I am doing the only thing I know how to do that might help. I write.

In this book I share my experience as one who came to manhood in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, a time when my country, the United States, was in crisis. Political assassinations, an aimless war, outrageous rock and roll, civil unrest, the sexual revolution, the hippy movement, feminism…these were all agents of change common to that time and that affect how men like me show up in the world. If you share the history of that time, or if you would like to understand why a man of my generation thinks and acts the way he does, then you will find this book of interest.

Some of you will remember a scene from the 1980 Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back where the knight in training Luke Skywalker is led to the opening of a spooky, dark cave by his Jedi master Yoda.

“In you must go,” commanded Yoda.

“What’s in there?” Luke asked, peering warily into the ominous cave.

“Only what you take with you,” Yoda said.

That scene, and in fact much of the Star Wars saga, borrows from the work of Joseph Campbell, an American professor of literature and author of the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he deconstructs the journey of the archetypal hero as shared by world mythologies. It is Luke Skywalker’s journey, and it is yours and mine too.

Luke Skywalker steps into the cave and encounters his greatest fear, the black clad, towering figure of his arch-nemesis Darth Vader. Skywalker cuts off Vader’s head, only to discover his own face inside the black helmet. For women, this is the moment when she puts her hand into the sleeve of her blouse and sees her mother’s hand come out the other end. For men like me, who desperately do not want to be anything like the man who sired us, it’s when we learn that the apple has not fallen far from the tree. We are our father’s sons, no matter how hard we try not to be.

What can we do then when we encounter our fathers in the dark cave and see our own image reflected in him? The aforementioned Joseph Campbell offers an answer. He said:

“The work of the hero is to slay the tenacious aspect of the father (dragon, tester, ogre king) and release from its ban the vital energies that will feed the universe.”

It’s no small task, feeding the universe. It’s not for the timid. But for the few of us men who dare to enter the cave, we may just discover the hero within, the one who can, in his own small but important way, make the world just a little bit better. “The cave you fear to enter,” said Joseph Campbell, “Holds the treasure that you seek.” So in the words of Yoda: In you must go.

Before I close, I want to touch on this small matter of my father the spy. I don’t know for sure that he was a spy, but there are plenty of suspicious clues that suggest he was, not the least of which are all the years he spent in the wrong places at the right times — East Berlin during the cold war, Iran just before the Shah fell, communist Yugoslavia in the dead of night, and other such inexplicable episodes.

As a child, I was always told dad was a “consultant to the military,” but in later years, I started to question that explanation. I dug into my father’s story in ways I never thought I would, for I was estranged from him while he was alive. It wasn’t until twenty years after dad died that I began to piece together his life, and in doing so, I began to piece together my own.

Our story begins late one night in 2011, when my phone rang, opening the door to a secret room in my father’s life, and a forbidden love that was as bitter as it was sweet.

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Further Reading About Men

For those interested in knowing more about how masculinity is changing, and how the best of it can be nurtured, I recommend the following readings.
 

Highly recommended:

Also good:

 

My own thoughts on the subject:

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Books by Brant

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The trip became as much a spiritual and emotional journey inward as it was a literal outward one, and found me in a place those of you who are in the second half of life are likely to recognize.

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