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Archive for Saturday, March 15, 2008

Men at work

Controversial male-bonding movement building momentum in Lawrence

An Integration Group of ManKind Project members meet Thursday night. The ManKind Project is an international not-for-profit organization for men run primarily by volunteers. The group has 18 members and two Integration Groups in Lawrence.

An Integration Group of ManKind Project members meet Thursday night. The ManKind Project is an international not-for-profit organization for men run primarily by volunteers. The group has 18 members and two Integration Groups in Lawrence.

March 15, 2008

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Mankind in Lawrence

Men interested in the ManKind Project can go to "Introduction to Men's Work" at 7 p.m. Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Mark Zwahl is tired of men making lame excuses for not being responsible - such as being late to dates.

"If I choose to meet you and I'm 15 minutes late, the consequences, they're not huge, but the consequences are that you won't trust me as much," the Lawrence resident says. "What's the message that I'm probably sending? Well, I'm sending a message that you're pretty far down my priority list. We say one thing and do something else."

These are the sorts of priorities Zwahl deals with as part of the ManKind Project, which has a chapter in Lawrence and has created controversy in other parts of the country.

The project is an international nonprofit educational and training organization for men. More than 30,000 men from at least nine countries have completed the group's initiation weekends, called the New Warrior Training Adventure, according to the program's Web site, www.mkp.org.

Charles Gruber, a Lawrence resident and the center director for the Kansas City area, says 300 men from a region including Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita have completed the initiation weekends with the group. There are 100 active regional members - including 18 in Lawrence.

Lawrence's 18 members are split between two "Integration Groups" - or "I Groups" - that meet weekly.

Generally, members extend personal invitations to join the group. But as it seeks to become more visible, Gruber and Zwahl, the "leader body" for the Lawrence group, will lead an "Introduction to Men's Work" program at 7 p.m. Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Gruber says the group deals with issues of parenting, finances and, generally, how to be a better man. For Zwahl, this means taking responsibility over his own life - his relationships, feelings and emotions.

"In some ways what we do is somewhat of a departure from ordinary life. That's the point," Zwahl says. "There are some things that are missing in our culture, and I like to think that the men's work we do adds something back in that is really valuable, that is otherwise missing."

Becoming a man

Men who want to become involved with the local ManKind Project and the men's work group must first be initiated during a weekend event at a camp near Parkville, Mo.

The initiation weekend costs $675 per person, though Gruber says payment plans and scholarships can be available.

"The weekend is a portal to the community," says Gruber, who went through his New Warrior Training Adventure in 2003. "Now there are many boys and men who have never been honored in their transition from being a boy to becoming a man. And we try to fill that gap."

The ManKind Project and its members are secretive about what happens during the initiation weekends. Participants sign a confidentiality agreement as part of pre-weekend paperwork that includes a standard injury waiver. Gruber says the confidentiality agreement works in two ways. He says it protects the identities of the men involved as well as the experience of the weekend, which he says could be destroyed without the mystique.

Zwahl says the weekend is meant to be a challenge, and those interested in initiation should be prepared for a tough time emotionally and physically.

"It's not a spa," Zwahl says. "I didn't have a clue. I was all ready for a little bit of conference stuff during the day and (to) lay back in my cabin and read a book at night. I didn't know they were going to keep me busy the whole (darn) time. That's why we make sure people know it's an initiation and not a conference workshop."

Allegations

Making that distinction clearer has become more important to the group after a 2005 incident in Texas. Michael Scinto committed suicide after attending an initiation weekend.

Scinto had been struggling with alcohol and cocaine abuse and claimed the weekend unearthed a traumatic childhood memory, according to a 2007 Houston Press article. The suit against the Houston chapter of the group is pending.

"There was a tragic incident where a man committed suicide two-and-a-half weeks after he went through his NWTA weekend," says Gruber, adding Scinto needed outside help for his problems. "I have since talked to the men who ran that weekend, and (the claims in the suit about the weekend) were just ugly, perverted, twisted lies."

Zwahl, a former volunteer grief counselor with Headquarters Crisis Center, 211 E. Eighth St., says as a result of the Scinto case, he and other group leaders are more careful in screening men for the initiation weekend.

"We're going to try to screen out somebody who is significantly troubled or depressed or seems to be in a really fragile time in their life," Zwahl says. "And that's going to be a crapshoot, just like any kind of screening would be."

Emotional connection

Zwahl says "becoming a man" is more about psychology and less about morphing into a stoic John Wayne-type character.

"For men especially, culturally, stereotypically, we're encouraged not to show our emotions. 'Boys don't cry.' 'Buck up, be a man,'" Zwahl says. "The phrase 'be a man' means tough it out and don't show your emotions. That's dangerous because those emotions are there, we bottle them up and, quite frankly, they come out anyway."

To work on showing emotion, Zwahl says that as the men meet in their weekly I Groups they are as honest as possible - even when it comes to each other.

"Sitting in a circle of men who are being 100 percent honest with each other is a pretty rare event," Zwahl says.

The involvement in the group has been important to Zwahl, who got involved with men's work in 1990 and the ManKind Project in 2004.

"Men aren't particularly good at looking for help, let alone ask for it," Zwahl says. "You see the uphill battle we've got? We have a men's organization that involves men helping men and the convention of the culture is that men don't ask for help. For me at least, but I know for some men, it has been a real life-changing event."

Comments

toefungus 6 years, 1 month ago

The Masons used to offer this kind of support to members. Are they not doing this any more?

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yourworstnightmare 6 years, 1 month ago

"However all you tough guys who talk about having balls, why don't you post about your abusive childhood, about the women you loved who left you for better men."

Neither has happened to me, possibly because I am a "better man" to start with.

"but there is a certain toughness when you can look at yourself honestly and learn how to own what you are."

Why do you need an asinine group hug to do this? Oh, that's right. No cohones.

"I can only say that my involvement in the weekly meetings indeed gives me practice in being different than what i would usually be in relationships, business and family."

Jesus, makes it sound like you would be a monster without this group. Like a sheep, you need others to validate your thoughts and actions.

"It takes great courage to change your mind by looking at your shadows and the things you have hidden there."

I agree. But why do you need some silly "New Warrior" support group to do this? I keep forgetting. Cohone-less sheep.

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wagenseil 6 years, 1 month ago

$675 is a pretty steep price for a weekend, unless they are sacrificing bulls [let the puns begin...] or somesuch. Probably essentially just a multi-level marketing scheme -- AmWay without extolling the virtues of household cleaning supplies. Seems to me that one could prove one's "manliness" working weekends with a hammer and power saw for Habitat for Humanity and accomplish a bit more good for the community, but otherwise appears fairly harmless. Assuming $675 isn't coming out of the kid's lunch money.

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Paul R Getto 6 years, 1 month ago

Best wishes and good luck. Working together in groups is one definition of humanity. If this works for you, go for it. If it doesn't, don't join and participate.

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jonny_quest 6 years, 1 month ago

Of course, this group and these local men are not hiding behind anonymity as a LJW blogger...as I do. They have real fortitude- i.e., cohones, to drop the macho ego and submit to introspection to be better men, better humans. Perhaps, the most gutsy action a man can do.

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Multidisciplinary 6 years, 1 month ago

"Third option, learn how to play guitar."

I thought it was,"Get a sheep". (jk)

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overplayedhistory 6 years, 1 month ago

Secret initiations sound slightly cultish to me, but if it helps. If they start trashing franchise coffee bars with corporate art well now I am paying attention. I can not read this without thinking of fight club. I was deeply emotionally moved by that movie. I was an alter boy and by the grace of God I was not molested. If I were I would love to share the experience with you miss Why. If a woman leaves you for a better man, you have one of two choices: become a better man or look for a lesser woman. Third option, learn how to play guitar.

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thatsmyname 6 years, 1 month ago

I am a member of this group and far from a sheep. My whole life has been a testament to doing your life different - and better. I can only say that my involvement in the weekly meetings indeed gives me practice in being different than what i would usually be in relationships, business and family.

It takes great courage to change your mind by looking at your shadows and the things you have hidden there. I invite anyone here to try it and decide for themselves.

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Pywacket 6 years, 1 month ago

I doubt this is any better or any worse than any other "supportive" group anyone joins, whether it's a church or AA. The placebo effect is everything. If they think it helps them, it probably does.

And the more they pay for it, the more they likely get out of it. That research has been done on drugs, but I'm sure it's equally applicable here.

I was slightly acquainted with Mark Z back in his Headquarters days. His girlfriend was a dance major (a friend of a friend of mine) and we saw them at parties here & there. He seemed like a very nice, warmhearted individual back then--sensitive to the needs and interests of others. I guess I'm a little perplexed that he feels he needs this sort of thing at this point in his life (he must be in his 50s). He seemed like a pretty cool cat back then.

But I guess it beats being brainwashed by a fundamentalist cult. I hope they all find what they're looking for--whether it's something they're missing in the world or within their own souls.

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 1 month ago

I know someone who has done this. They got a lot out of it. I'm not sure I'm "all for it" by any means, but if they get something from it...

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WHY 6 years, 1 month ago

I am not a member of this group. However all you tough guys who talk about having balls, why don't you post about your abusive childhood, about the women you loved who left you for better men. I'm sure you would all beat me in boxing, but there is a certain toughness when you can look at yourself honestly and learn how to own what you are.

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TheLawrenceFox 6 years, 1 month ago

You mock what you do not understand...

Religion Politics Community Controversy Brotherhood Committment Consequences Blacks Whites Men Women Responsibility Indians Mexicans Jewish Faith Respect Identity Honesty Trust Feelings Love Emotions... Yourself

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Chris Beilman 6 years, 1 month ago

Just smile and give them a vegemite sandwich ...

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yourworstnightmare 6 years, 1 month ago

Baaa. Baaa. Baaa. What a bunch of weak-ass sheep. The only thing controversial about this is that these "men" get to call themselves men.

The secret about the "New Warrrior" meetings is that these "men" are searching the countryside for their cohones, which they apparently lost long ago.

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Luxor 6 years, 1 month ago

This is stupid. Remember Lifespring and est and all of that? Its the same stuff for people who are weak.

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Friendo 6 years, 1 month ago

I can confirm that the guy (sorry I mean "man") in the brown jacket is 'Right Thinker'.

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Mariann 6 years, 1 month ago

I thought it was a Men at Work reunion.......... Down Under........

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Jock Navels 6 years, 1 month ago

it doesn't get any better than this!

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Multidisciplinary 6 years, 1 month ago

Always be wary of situations where a man wants you to keep something secret. Especially if he wants you to sign something about that.

"Men like darkness because their deeds are evil."

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DonQuipunch 6 years, 1 month ago

"I didn't know they were going to keep me busy the whole (darn) time."

Am I to infer that this image-conscious, self-aware, improvement-conscious "man" who is learning to represent himself in an honorable way is blurting out expletives in a media interview?

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jonny_quest 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

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Godot 6 years, 1 month ago

http://www.houstonpress.com/2007-10-04/news/weekend-warriors/

I wonder if Paul Thomas Anderson got the character of Frank TJ Mackey in "Magnolia" from attending weekend warrior initiation.

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small_fish_in_small_pond 6 years, 1 month ago

Apparently yourworstnightmare is perfect...

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yourworstnightmare 6 years, 1 month ago

What a load of crap. What a bunch of joiners. How about if you just grow some balls and start taking responsibility for yourself and your actions.

You need a "group" to tell you this? Jesus. Pathetic. Grow a pair.

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macon47 6 years, 1 month ago

i think most women would rather have the 600 bucks and tell her boy toy to get a life and grow up

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