by Boysen Hodgson
I read “Fire in the Belly” in my early 20’s. It was a powerful addition to my list of favorite personal development books, along with “The Book; on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,””Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” “The Road Less Travelled,” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Yes, I was a young man searching.
Sam Keen’s powerful voice for the sacred masculine was terrifying and liberating. It felt unattainable. Maybe it was. Now, in 2015, as a man in my mid-forties, the masculinity presented in “Fire in the Belly” still resonates. And, with the progress of time and culture, it doesn’t feel as transcendent as what I see some men actually living.
Though the message he brought was radical, Sam Keen was still a man of his time. Sam Keen, as a father, a husband, and a working man, was different than the stereotype of the 1960’s corporate suburban provider, but his expressions of the values of manhood were a horizontal shift rather than an up-level into a new paradigm. His realisations about manhood were an essential and natural next step in an evolutionary process, similar to what Robert Bly captured in “Iron John.” Modern man’s search for the intersection of life-giving power without Patriarchy’s death-dealing oppression. It was a vision of men trying to kindle a spark of wildness in a time that felt deadening, and find their tender hearts in a time when their hearts felt hardened.
Some things have changed. Many have not. The evolution of our gender system is ongoing, and progress happens. I am fiercely optimistic. I see men living with power and compassion all around me. I see men awakened. Sam Keen played a role in this emergence – and for that I am deeply grateful.
“Prodigal Father, Wayward Son” the new book co-written by Sam Keen and his son Gifford Keen is reflective of the unintended consequences of the kind of manhood that a younger Keen wrote about, and a beautiful testament to the power of vulnerability, truth-telling and forgiveness. It is a series of stories told by Father to Son and Son to Father on a path to reconciliation.
Gifford and Sam Keen offer up the past unflinchingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to read. But what I loved about the book is the tenderness that emerges in the empathy that they discover together. It takes hard work to get there. It takes a level of personal responsibility and vulnerability only achieved through effort over time, the kind of effort that requires a fire in the belly.
I was fortunate to speak with Gifford and Sam in February 2015, shortly after the book was published. I believe that the Sam Keen I spoke with is a wonderful example of the evolution I explore above. What I experienced in the conversation with Sam and Gifford were men whose hearts were wide open, compassionate, and ready to speak the truth.
See the full interview here.
by Boysen Hodgson