A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

An interview with Don Jones


Some poetry is meant to be read in private with quiet personal introspection. Other expressions are best served up in a loud voice to a great gathering of men like Shakespeare's King Henry: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother "

Don Jones recently led a Mankind Project (MKP) men's retreat in Reidsville, NC with the energy and vitality of a king preparing his men for battle. When he spoke - men listened. His commanding presence filled the room as his big booming voice resonated like the sound of rushing waters. This must what God sounds like, I think. With great wisdom and powerful poetry, this modern-day adventurer led 55 men into a hero's journey of their own souls. Trust me, the real Indiana Jones in person is much more exciting than the two-dimensional movie version.

Currently residing in Indianapolis, IN, Jones is a former Disciples of Christ minister, author ("Wisdom for the Journey"), and past Chairman of the Mankind Project International.

As he opened the first meeting on the weekend, Jones invited each man "to let that golden child of God be glorious" during the ensuing days. Here was a man who could lead equally on Christian or heathen ground. He recited the D. H. Lawrence poem Lizard and encouraged the group to repeat it with him. What magnificent sights and sounds there were that day!

LIZARD
By D.H. Lawrence

A lizard ran out on a rock and looked up, listening
No doubt to the sounding of the sphere.
And what a dandy fellow! The right toss of a chin for you
And swirl of a tail!
If men were as much men as lizards are lizards
They'd be worth looking at.

Sitting at home overlooking a beautiful lake, Jones gave me some of his "porch time" to discuss his life and work. I wish I could have been there in person.

"It looks like a little vacation spot here when the trees are all filled out," he chimed on the phone. "When men want to have a little mentoring with me they say 'do you have a little porch time?'"

Peacefully living by the water, Jones said he shares his land with Mallards, Canadian Geese and an occasional Great Blue Heron.

"We learn most of our stuff in open-hearted conversation," he began. "There was an educator named Mark Hopkins and it was said that the true nature of education was having Mark on one end of the log and the student on the other end."

One-on-one conversations are the best method for "getting a meaningful frame around what's happening in a man's life," he added.

Although Jones is one of the most forceful leaders I have ever known, he is also friendly and unassuming. He's even got his own mentor.

"I have an elder mentor that I meet with around breakfast to process what I need to get a frame around," he explained. "It's a two way street."

Don Jones has been down many streets in his long life including surviving prostate cancer. He graciously credits the support of MKP men in his local community.

"On the day of my surgery they had a 'Jones watch,'" he recalled. "Starting in the prep room, there was a man every hour there for a 24 hour period ... they did an all day and all night vigil. When I woke up from surgery, there was a guy there, and when I dropped off to sleep and woke up there was a different guy there. I thought wow, this really is a wonderful thing to have men support me."

Jones said it was the first night he'd ever spent in a hospital.

"I've always been a child of good fortune," he continued. "Many people say 'Jones you can fall in a vat of shit and come out smelling like a rose every time.' I really am grateful, however, because 95 percent of the men who get the same diagnosis are dead within months. Statistically speaking, I should have been dead in the summer of 1995. That's how long I've been living in the grace period of my life."

Jones said he is using his "grace period" to share his spiritual gifts of joy with others.

"I have the consciousness that there is a precocious divine child within me," he said, "an energetic, miraculous little character who's got a lot of wisdom. He sees the humor in just about everything. He just pops out. I think that's one reason I survived cancer and expect to live quite a long time. An elder who doesn't have a connection with his divine child within him is likely to become a crusty old bastard. You'll meet elders and wonder how they stay young as they are ... there's an inner connection with a youthful spirit that keeps animating them as they get older."

As a ten-year survivor of cancer, Jones said he fulfills a part of his mission by speaking to others who have cancer.

"It's an important piece of work because most men are in a state of shock when they discover they have cancer inside them," he said. "They need someone that's been there who can listen and appreciate what they're going through."

I sit here now at this computer lamenting how few leaders there are in the world today who can "listen and appreciate." Don Jones is a man I can look up to. For me, he models a leader in integrity. During the weekend, he spoke of four principles that are essential in a true leader.

"Followers have four basic needs in relation to their leaders," he told the group. "Unless leaders are able to meet these needs consistently and with integrity, the followers will look elsewhere for leadership. Sometimes, so-called 'king-killing' does not come from the shadow of the follower, but rather is aggravated by the failure of the leader to meet his followers needs."

According to Jones, those needs are characterized as idealization, adversarial, collegial and delegatory.

"I believe historically we've been through some events that have damaged the idealization process, starting with Vietnam; then Watergate; corporate greed and misconduct; the Catholic Priests abuse of children," he explained. "I think the fabric of trust has been damaged because of a series of events and disappointments for those we normally look up to for leadership. We've been robbed of the mechanism of idealization and admiration that contributes to our own growth. There's too much shadow king stuff. You know what I mean? We've quit expecting to see golden kings anymore which would inspire our own journey to leadership. When we do see one we're very surprised and can't believe it. I believe that golden kings still do exist."

A shadow king can not tolerate "centers of initiative outside himself," he added. "He wants to be the only center of initiative and when other men around become the center - he tries to kill them."

How does one confront a shadow king?

"Sometimes you have to organize a group of men to box him in and put up the mirror to the shadow side of his behavior," Jones noted. "But usually a shadow king ends up being isolated and alone because strong men cannot tolerate living in his neighborhood. So eventually everyone leaves him except for those that he can play the one-up-game on all the time. Sometimes that experience of being left alone will sink in and he'll say, 'man, I'm driving everybody away.' Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 men who have care and concern to pay him a visit and do something like an intervention."

Power is an addiction like alcohol or sex, he added.

"Addiction is whatever you use to remain unconscious," he continued. "Power is one of the most attractive and most socially acceptable addictions."

The Mankind Project provides leadership training for those interested in developing the "golden king."

"The MKP certification process is where a man shows up in a front of a group of other powerful men and gives them permission to judge him where he is with shadow," Jones explained. "The shadow king can't bluff his way through or intimidate his way through the process when there's eight powerful men there. More than one will see how your shadow plays out. And, if you don't recognize when it's playing out, you'll get a 'not yet' response."

To be a certified leader in MKP a man must be initiated on a Weekend Adventure Training, take a number of leadership seminars, staff numerous weekends, and receive the nod from MKP leaders.

"It's a matter of whether you feel called to go that route," Jones said, reflecting on his own experience as a certified leader. "MKP has developed some of the best leader training around the world. Ultimately, it's about leadership in your own life and the way leadership works out in your life."

MKP will address the theme of leadership at its summer conference in Chicago with the theme "Beyond Our Circle."

"We're asking the question 'How does leadership look?' beyond our own groups," he said. "Let's take a look outward. We've got 25,000 of the most emotionally literate men in the world who are part of MKP. What are we for? What's it all about? Is it about only developing our own inner circles, or is it about engagement with the world in a new level of leadership and authenticity? We've been powering up, empowering ourselves by creating the kind of circles we do for men in MKP. The time for engagement with the world has come."

Don Jones carries a strong vision for the collective purpose of MKP, yet he does not underestimate the power of one man.

"We have a leader in our community who has transformed his entire business by conducting it with the principles he learned in MKP," Jones said, "and it's been a hell of a journey for him relating to the people in his business in a new way, gathering them in circles, and teaching them how to communicate. He's reorganizing his whole business and becoming the kind of king that blesses."

With the adversarial needs of men, some must grow by testing their strength against a king, Jones noted.

"The shadow king, when he is being tested by a young man, will be tempted to kill or undermine him," he continued. "There are two ways to kill: with the sword or with a dagger. You can do it openly or by drawing a dagger surreptitiously under your cloak."

For some men, cruelty is all they were ever taught.

"If the only thing you're exposed to when you're growing up is some form of brutality or abandonment - which in a sense is the worst brutality - then you're going to believe that your only hope of survival is to become as much like those who wounded you as possible," Jones said, "and you learn to define strength in terms of being able to wield the sword or the dagger."

So this is how we've gotten ourselves into the mess we're in with misguided patriarchal images of manhood dominating our culture. But, isn't it time to stop apologizing for being a man?

"I think the deeper meaning of my poem 'Anthropos Rising' says something is happening in our society where men are opening themselves up to the arrival of a new whole masculinity that transcends the patriarchal, mercenary and macho ways of being a man," he said, "and where he steps into a new relationship with women and other men in the world."

ANTHROPOS RISING
By Don Jones

The Anthropos is rising!
The age-old, original man is coming to claim us
from our shadow imitations of manhood!
Patriarchal Man is dying!
You know him well - the one who feeds on dominance
over women and children -
The one who lords it over other men,
And who rapes even the earth itself in the godawful illusion
that he owns even Her.
Macho Man is a zombie -
a walking dead man who tries to keep himself alive
by worshipping fire power.
He stalks the earth with grotesque bravado,
threatening the life of everything that breathes,
unable to connect with anything except out of this Killer.
Mercenary Man is a joke!
He has substituted money for the true riches of life,
and has lost any sense of mission other than the bottom line.
His days are numbered, and his feverish grip upon Things
will never save him.
The Anthropos is rising!
The gates of history are swinging wide to welcome
The New Man, The True Man, The Whole Man!
The man who loves woman, not in the tired, old seductive way,
but genuinely from the heart, and joins with her in the embrace of equality!
The one who loves and nurtures little children because
he sees in them the seeds of a new world in the making!
The one who blesses and does not curse other men because
they are courageous brother warriors whose saving mission
is the same as his own!
The man who reverences the earth, and protects Her,
and helps Her become the majestic Mother Garden
she was intended to be from the beginning.
The Anthropos is rising! The Anthropos is rising!
I beg, I plead with you to welcome with me
the rising of the Anthropos - the Man who though long in coming
is striding through the gates even now!

"The saving thing is with all the devastation that men have wrought there is still an initiation hunger in the hearts of every man," Jones expressed. "He knows there is a greater manhood he is intended for but he has not yet realized it - it never dies, it is archetypal, universal and permanent. And I believe that's the explanation why the MKP organization has grown more rapidly than any other form of men's movement. It satisfies that initiation hunger. Once that part begins to be fed it initiates him into a true man - a whole man. And the gates are swinging wide to welcome that man!"

Too many leaders "spend time circling around in woundedness of masculinity and have blinded themselves to the vision of masculine wholeness," he added.

Jones said he believes even the great D.H. Lawrence "never fully embodied it himself" but channeled his vision of sacred masculinity.

William Blake refers to "four great ones in every man," Jones noted. He also gave a nod to Robert Moore and Doug Gillette for their works with the King, Warrior, Magician, Lover archetypes.

"You need to be able to define what a mature man would look like if you ever saw one," Jones said with a hearty laugh, " just so you can recognize him when you see him. You have to ask what am I being initiated into. If you don't know the answer to that question you're on your way but don't know where you're going."

Hopefully initiated into a real king ... so what does one look like? Are there any examples from history? Peter The Great personally led his men into battle, along with General Patton, Jones recalled.

"For all his grandiosity, Patton had the ability to step into the shoulder-to-shoulder relationship with his men," Jones said. "We need to transcend the traditional patriarchal structure with a man, a leader, who is secure enough that he doesn't have to flaunt the number of bars or stars on his uniform. There's a lot of one-upmanship among men. It doesn't matter how high you climb; what matters is remembering where you came from. When a leader can do that, he can open up to collegial connections with other men."

According to Jones, the effectiveness of delegation is enhanced by the ability to be collegial.

"When it comes time to delegate, men with whom you've been collegial will say 'sure, I'll do anything for that leader because he's been there for me,'" Jones continued. "The man will think 'I feel empowered by that leader who trusts me with something that needs to get done.'"

A true leader does not work from imposing fear, rather he gets things done through a common faith, he added.

"A king can compel his followers to bring tribute and blessings out of a desire to please or out of fear," he explained. "However, the blessing should flow from the king, not to the king."

Referring to Robert Bly's quote, Jones said a good king's responsibility is to first be blessed by "the king in the other world."

" and if you're open to that kind of blessing, you don't have to extort a blessing from the people who are at other levels," he said. "It's like you become a conduit of blessings."

Alice Miller (Drama of the Gifted Child) defines child abuse as a situation where the child exists to meet the emotional needs of the parent instead of the other way around, Jones said.

"That principle of emotional abuse can apply to leadership," he continued. "Leadership abuse is where followers exist to meet the emotional needs of leaders. The flow of blessings must be from the leader not to the leader."

As he sat on his porch, I could hear him puffing on a cigar. Jones said "porch time" was also his own private time where he meditated and prayed.

"Prayer has ceased to become a one way conversation with me where I ask God for things," he said, "It's more like I write out conversations between myself and what intermediary figures there are between me and God. The way god deals with me is through interesting figures in my psyche they are spokes persons for the divine. They carry a lot of wisdom and guidance. I think the best writing comes from overhearing those conversations. A good novelist will tell you he does not invent the dialogue, he overhears the conversation and simply records it. He plugs into a conversation that is going on between two entities, two psychic entities, two imaginary characters. In the same way, a good spiritual practice is to carry on conversations with psychic energies that are real to you in that moment, especially those that personify the king."

Jones recommends that people identify with king figures from literature or history.

"Imagine that character that carries the ideal king energy as real and talk to him. I carry on a conversation and record it," he said. "A man brought a dream to me. He was standing at his picture window looking at his yard and Abraham Lincoln was out there. Then in his dream, a messenger came and knocked at the door saying that 'Mr. Goodright' was there. It was clear my friend needed to open up to king energy. I told my friend the message of the dream what that he needed was to sit down and write out a conversation with him and Abraham Lincoln the king figure."

Who does Don Jones interactive with? No one less than the Biblical Melchizedek.

"I talk to Melchizedek. He was an archetypal figure. He had no genealogy. He was an original from God. He came straight from God."

Don Jones is a true original who began his conversations with God at an early age.

"I was a Disciples of Christ clergyman for 40 years," he recalled. "I was called at 17 to be a minister through spiritual experiences that were remarkable. I'd never been in church until I was 15. The minute I went to church, I found more love there than I had ever experienced at any venue in my life."

Fluidly moving from the scriptural to the literary, Jones spoke of the King Arthur story and young Parsifal's marvelous experience when he first wandered into the grail castle.

"That happens to a lot of young men in their teens, they have deep spiritual experiences," he explained. "But, Parsifal didn't know how to answer the question 'what is this for?' He had to wander for years before finding the grail. Sometimes spiritual experiences happen so early we can't integrate them because the culture doesn't support that experience. If you were to take that experience to a psychologist you'd get a diagnosis instead of a blessing. Our culture makes it difficult to accept spiritual blessings from the spiritual world. That's too bad. But that's part of the enlightenment and scientific world view."

And what about going to church?

"Sometimes it's the only avenue people know that is open to them," he said, "but it can become a substitute form of spiritual experience. How many of us go to church to hide from God?"

Jones said he usually sees "more miracles on a New Warrior weekend than in church."

"Through MKP, I see transformations and openings of the heart, and men tapping into the resources of love that God has endowed us with," he said.

Jones quoted a sign in Latin that C.G. Jung hung over his study door. The translation is: "Called or not called, God is there."

"That's how I understand the New Warrior weekend," he added. "It doesn't matter if we use the name of God on the weekend, the divine presence is still there."

Whatever the word, there was a glorious presence on my weekend in May with Indiana Jones.

"A leader invokes the blessing of inviting men to be glorious - be glorious along with me," he concluded. "That's the job of a weekend leader, not just to form the container but to inspire and ignite the container with energy and meaning. I believe a leader has to fire up a container. That's why I use the poetry I do, to energize the container. When I get through doing poetry on a weekend there are goose bumps all over my body. I'm opening myself to the energy of the poem that is invoking the energy. It's my way of being who I am on the weekend and getting an influx of energy for me ... and it seems to work for others."

You should experience for yourself how it works for others - the foot-stomping joy of sharing in this great energy as a large group of men repeat these inspired words together:

ESCAPE
By D.H. Lawrence

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
And we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taught with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

© 2005 Reid Baer

*     *     *

The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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