Eros and Thanatos: Passion and Death

“Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive!

Think… and think… while you are alive.”

Kabir translated by Robert Bly

Most of my adult life, both professionally and personally, has been devoted to a pursuit of Eros, which means “life instinct,” passion, purpose, and positivity. Eros is the drive to live fully.

My bouts with alcoholism over the decades were a movement towards death and away from Eros. Addiction is an unconscious relationship with Thanatos – the drive toward death and destruction. When I was younger, I used to drive my cars like death did not matter, but in reality, it was Thanatos behind the wheel.

Why am I writing about these two concepts – Eros and Thanatos? Because our country is drowning in the river Styx for many reasons, including a sore lack of life preserving and life-affirming leadership.

Many men and women are not wearing masks or social distancing and think they are acting out of the life instinct and a desire for freedom. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” according to Janis Joplin who courted Thanatos at a very young age. Freedom to die and kill others is not true freedom because it is in bondage to Thanatos.

The people who refuse to do what they can to stop the spread of Virus/Thanatos to others (especially the older generation which includes me and many of you reading this right now) don’t even know ,or perhaps do not care, they are participating in the drive towards death – not life.

How many more people, young and old, have to die before we as a society and individuals agree to worship the drive to Life and stop our reckless disregard for the lives of others? When will we become adults who feel passionate again and in love with Eros, in love with life?

Perhaps we should all agree to take the physician’s vow – “First do no harm” – while Thanatos is taking 150,000 lives.

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death…”

Walt Whitman

The Language of Animals

Animals are nothing but the forms of our virtues and vices, wandering before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls.

~ Victor Hugo

Men used to listen attentively to the messages of the animals; our lives, our souls, depended on it. The appearances and absences of certain animals at certain times were full of meaning and offered essential guidance. The hawk, raven, wolf, and bear all sent messages to men and spoke in a language we understood.

A part of us still understands that language. The animals still speak, showing up at interesting times, in “coincidental” ways. A husky a cousin to the wolf, might walk up to us just when we are in need of courage. A cat visits when we require patience. When peace is most precious, a dove flies overhead. The animals are speaking.

Today I’ll observe the animals to absorb their wisdom.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations On the Masculine Soul


“In fact, the conflict itself is creative and perhaps should never be healed.”

~ Thomas Moore

Very often men seek to remove conflict. At times that’s the best move to make. But hoping for an end to all conflict is unrealistic. Conflict is natural; it’s part of living in community rather than isolation.

When conflict arises, I can take it as a great opportunity to practice my skills. I can explore, appreciate, and learn from each circumstance. If someone flirts with my wife, I get to practice handling my jealousy and anger. In a disagreement with a coworker, I can practice seeking a task in a new way. If my teenage son wants to dye his hair purple and put a ring in his nose, I get to practice tolerance and compromise.

No matter how disagreeable on the outside, every conflict has a delicious sweet at its core – a great teaching hidden in its middle. To pray that a conflict will disappear before it has done its work on me will only lead me further into darkness. To meet conflicts with an enthusiastic good nature, to work at each one until I discover its hidden teaching, is to live wisely and fully.

Today I accept the presence of conflict in my life. I have the choice to embrace conflicts, to learn from them, to use them to grow.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

The Perfection of Imperfection

Baseball … teaches that errors are part of the game.

~ Ernest Kurtz

Some of us, long ago, learned that anything less than perfection was failure. We learned this in our families, at school, from coaches. Some of us had “four A, one B” parents: we handed them our report card, they looked silently at the row of A’s, then saw the B and said, “What is this doing here?” Such parents pass on to their children the intolerance they got from their own parents. As adults they teach their children to be ashamed of anything less than perfection, even if their children are doing very well.

If our worst fear is to make an error, we can’t make any home runs either. When we feel our worth depends on perfection, we stop taking risks. But if we can’t risk failure, our days will be colorless and empty.

Inevitably our life’s journey will include stumbling over rough terrain. At these rough spots we discover our inner strength. Besides, without out “mistakes,” we’d be somewhere else – we’d be someone else! Today, we can try to accept all we’ve lived through. We can keep going, accepting the outcome, whether it matches our fantasies or not.

Today I’ll look back on my “mistakes” with new eyes. All that I’ve done in my life has helped me to arrive where I am right now.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Deep Respect

Our capacity for intimacy is built on deep respect, a presence that allows what is true to express itself, to be discovered.

~ Jack Kornfield

Respect can connect humans at the deepest level. Love that is based on respect – rather than need or longing – is more enduring. Such respect can tolerate great differences. Truth and commitment can emerge in the container of mutual respect.

Some things command our respect – perhaps because of their beauty or power. Respect for the ordinary, especially in intimate relationships, can sustain those connections. Express your respect. Say it. Show it in a gift or gesture, especially during difficult times. That which is accompanied with respect, even if it is difficult, will be better heard.

Today I will respect myself and all others whom I have contact with. I will communicate that respect by what I do and say.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Regression: The Damage

“Where have all the grownups gone?” ~ Robert Bly, The Sibling Society

Emotional regression is a person and social unconscious return to our history when our buttons are pushed, or we get triggered and we react instead of respond. Regression gives us the sense that we are small, or little and not the powerful adults we are much of the time.

When we regress, we leave our new brain, our prefrontal lobe and hide in the limbic brain until the threat and emotional or physical harm has passed. It is in this very old part of our brain that we only have three choices – fight, flight, or freeze. Any one or all, of these choices are usually adolescent, infantile and primal.

When I wrote my book, Growing Yourself Back Up: Understanding Emotional Regression, I focused solely on how regression in our personal lives usually equaled regret. Regressed men and women will say or not say, do or not do or let be done that we may regret for days, weeks, or even decades. Trust me; I know; I’ve seen my own regressions too may times. That’s why I wrote the book as well as to help others with this misunderstood state of mind. I’m sad to recall one time something my then-wife said, and I took my wedding ring off and threw it across the room. I remember it as if it was yesterday, and I still regret it.

With all of this said, I want to turn my attention to the undeniable regression that our society is in a mass regressed, unconscious, adolescent and infantile state as I’ve ever witnessed. We are in a collective trance spun by malignant hypnotists.

Alright! Enough! We must leave their trance knowing we’ve lost touch with our feelings, our bodies and souls. We must leave our limbic brain and head back to the halls of our hearts and Congress by way of non-violence and stop acting, shooting, hood-wearing, and hate spewing.

How do we do it? Here’s what I said for coming out of regression in our personal relations, and perhaps these will apply to our social interactions:

  1. Get attention from our support system.
  2. Get and give empathy and compassion from those who understand what we are going through.
  3. Release the hurt, tears, fears, angers, sadness’s we’ve stored in our bodies and collective psyches.
  4. Pray, meditate, march to stop the terrorists in their tracks.

What do you think of Western Civilization?” “I think it would be a good idea,” said Gandhi


THE LONELINESS EMERGENCY: From Isolation to Connection

“…Loneliness can be a prison, a place from which we look out at a world we cannot inhabit…” Poet David Whyte

Some people are on the mountain of loneliness—rock stars, chefs and business tycoons. Some, who we will never know their names, are in despair, depression, and stuck, barely able to walk or stand. Sadly, these folks like myself used alcohol, and other addictions to numb the pain. Others finally decide that suicide is their only option to get out of their lonesome valley once and for all.

These are the people in W. H. Auden’s poem, “The Unknown Citizen,” written in 1939 is perhaps even more relevant today.

…he had everything necessary to the modern man, a photograph, a radio, a car, and a Frigidaire…when there was peace, he was for peace: when there was a war, he went…Our teachers report that he never interfered with their education. Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should have certainly heard. 

There is a loneliness emergency, and as the Beatles asked a long time ago, “all the lonely people, where do they all come from?”  Some or most of them never make it to the emergency room or a doctor or therapist. And yet loneliness is a serious health risk. It is a predictor of premature death and is a bigger risk factor than obesity and the equivalent of smoking up to 15 packs of cigarettes a day, according to recent studies.

In 2018 we have 500 channels, computers, 80% of the world’s population have smartphones that they can talk on, watch TV on, listen to music and soon driverless cars and yet, 50% of Americans report regularly feeling lonely and one study shows those between 16-24 are the most likely of any age group to report feeling lonely.

There is a loneliness emergency in this country and others. I finally came out on the other side of the deepest, bone-lonely period of my life after my divorce, so I’ll be saying more about this emergency, but for now, touch a friend, call, hold someone, speak to someone face-to-face, and for God’s sake, if you are suffering from loneliness, tell someone about it.