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Midlife is not a matter of a man´s age, but a stage of life. It is a time when the stories that inspired men´s youth -- heroic dreams of finding true love, fame or fortune -- come to a close. That finish may be triumphant, like making one´s first million dollars. Or it might arrive with failure and crisis -- a painful divorce, being "downsized" at work, struggling with a dreadful illness. More often, heroic dreams end quietly, with an ordinary marriage, rather than ecstatic romance; or being promoted at work -- but without $1 million in stock options.
When heroic scripts run out, what is a man to do?
Fairytales provide answers.
This may sound unbelievable and even ridiculous, because we usually consider fairytales suitable only for children. In just the same way, though, most of us also thought that myths were merely superstitions -- at least until Joseph Campbell introduced the public to the deep insights contained in these stories.
Fairy tales, no less than myths, convey the "wisdom of the ancestors." Both are the genes of human culture, and like DNA in chromosomes, contain highly compressed information essential to human life. Passed from person to person, century to century, culture to culture, folktales undergo a process akin to natural selection, where only the stories with enduring appeal and deep insights survive.
Beyond the Hero contains such fairytales, and specifically those that focus on men at midlife. Much less familiar than heroic stories, these men´s tales offer an astonishing vision of mature manhood, based not on the young hero or his older counterpart, the patriarch, but on the shaman-Trickster. That archetypal, paradoxical figure emerges in a man´s darkest hour at midlife, to provide spiritual companionship, iconoclastic wisdom and unexpected rejuvenation.
Personifying communication rather than conquest, creativity over control, laughter over law, the wily shaman-Trickster can be found in cultures around the world,. Indeed, he dances in images from over 30,000 years ago, hidden deep in caves -- painted long before the warrior-hero or patriarch arose. The shaman-Trickster embodies the deep masculine -- deep in time, and in the masculine psyche -- which men contact at midlife.
Praise for Beyond the Hero
These stories offer the wisdom of the ages about masculinity and its gifts to society. They describe new archetypal possibilities for men and their changing ways.
Robert A. Johnson, author of He; She; Moving Heaven and Earth
This spirited book brings forth the Trickster as a teacher for man. Using lively fairy tales, Chinen shows the Trickster as a very ancient figure in the male psyche. Honoring the Trickster will help some men to get free from their obsession with the Hero.
Robert W. Bly, author of Iron John; A Little Book on the Human Shadow
Beyond the Hero is articulate, insightful and thoughtful. Chinen takes us deep into the roots of the male psyche, making a significant and nourishing contribution to the new psychology of men.
Aaron Kipnis, author of Angry Young Men; Knights without Armor
Chinen´s work provides much-needed, important and fresh insights into myth and masculinity, leaving the reader feeling and thinking someone has shown us more about ourselves and how ancient stories can heal present wounds.
John Lee, author of The Flying Boy
Beyond the Hero is helpful for men seeking to make the shift from a patriarchal, hierarchical, power-based mode to a more spiritual orientation.
Linda Leonard, author of Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction
- Xlibris, August 2001
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