For Graham Phoenix, being good means going beyond what he feels inside himself into what he feels about the world outside. Here, he explores just what that means.
I write stories about myself that relate to my essence as a man. I draw parallels for other men that might help them to look at the issues they face in a different, more powerful, way. This is a superficial view of the columns I write; on a deeper level I am exploring my world and challenging it.
What is the purpose of this exploration, is it important to do it?
Many years ago, when my children were young, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, and went to a prominent Episcopal Church in the city centre. I was approached to co-lead a group being set up for men and women to explore their sexuality and christianity, and find ways to integrate them. I felt that my involvement could highlight the intersection of being gay and being christian and help open up the congregation to the fact that it could even exist. My intention was to challenge people in this area and, at least, open up a conversation.
That is the purpose of the Good Men Project, to open up a conversation, in this case about men, in particular, good men, and to challenge what people think. But what is a good man? What does ‘good’ mean for me and for the Good Men Project?
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
The alleged Indo-European root of good is ghedh (to unite, join, fit), so that which is united is good. You can stretch this to mean that if you accept the majority view, you are good, in other words being morally right is good, being conformist is good.
This approach relies on an authoritarian view of the world. It re-enforces a patriarchal view of society. It establishes the status quo and does not accept challenge. If you challenge you do not fit the majority view. This is how many people see the world and if you step out to change this, it scares them. It is hard for them to see that letting go of their certainties could make a better world.
“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.”
In Ruskin’s nineteenth century world there was a need for people to come together to create a new world of industry that would respect nature and build a bridge between life and art. That was a great idea but still does not help in defining what a good man is.
For me being good means going beyond what I feel inside myself into what I feel about the world outside. The essence of a man being good is when he looks outside himself, beyond his world view, and challenges himself so that he can challenge others. It can be seen in a man who asks what he can do to contribute to improving the world or changing it. Being good means committing to have a bigger vision than just feeling great.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This famous quote from Burke encapsulates what I mean. It is not men that are evil, it is the system that is evil. Most men are essentially good in themselves, they have a balance that leans towards good.
I realize that what I seek to do in my writing is to challenge men to go beyond themselves and see goodness as what they do out in the world. Whether it is about masculinity, the environment, relationships, fatherhood or any other of the issues that men face today, I encourage men to challenge what they think and find a new world view.
“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
For men to stay comfortable in their own world is for men to give up on themselves, their family and the world. We are in a time when most people realize that we have to do something to change the way we are socializing men. We want to find ways to encourage men to act and to no longer perpetuate what is broken.
“Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live, and illustrate the times.”
The Good Men Project challenges men’s view of the world. The key to the power of the collective message on the site is the diversity of voices in the men having the conversation. The writers are progressive men, they are comfortable with themselves as men.
As writers we have to consider what the people we are talking to are trying to preserve. What are they are trying to protect themselves from? People want to believe in their own world view, in what they believe is right and wrong. They want to know that the world can stay as it is, that is their safety zone. We are here to challenge that safety zone.
I realize that, as a writer, I need to be aware of my own strength and keep challenging. The readers who resist are still exploring their own model of the world. They are showing that they are not yet ready to go beyond it, but they have gone far enough to come and visit the site. So there is a point at which the movement is happening, the movement is getting bigger and more people are accepting the challenge of how they see the world.
I may not agree with everything that is written on the site, in fact I do not agree with a great deal, but the intention is, and has always been, to raise men’s consciousness, to encourage men to think beyond themselves.
It is very hard for many people. They come into this world, are raised a certain way, associate with certain people, and read certain books; they are socialized to see the world a certain way. It is hard for them to open themselves up to a different world view, indeed it is hard for any of us to open ourselves up. The answer is to talk about it and see how we can create change.
The Good Men Project sub-title is ‘the conversation no-one else is having’. It is in the nature of a conversation that it ebbs and flows, but it should, in my view, always move forward otherwise it becomes an argument.
“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.”
We need to concern ourselves with what’s happening in the world and how we can affect it. That is why I write, that is why I push forward in my own way.
Why do you come to the Good Men Project? Why do you read the articles? What do you want to see change? How are you a good man?
Let me know in the comments, keep this vital conversation going.
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