Editor’s note: David Franklin ’96 is a native northwester, a partner and father, a spiritual activist, life coach and teacher. He recently informed us of his new book, Radical Men. We were eager to catch up with him. Below is our interview:
Dante Garcia (DG): Why is the work that you do so important now?
David Franklin (DF): The “crisis of masculinity” has reached an all-time high, as evidenced by the recent acts of violence in Newtown, CT and Clackamas, OR. Many men are struggling with depression, confused sexuality, unfulfilling work, difficulty relating to other people, and overall lack of direction or meaningful purpose in their lives. The prevalence of pornography may exacerbate an underlying existential crisis. Many men are following an unconscious script that has been passed down to them. They are living according to the standards of others and as a result have little idea of who they really are. This script not only harms men, but also women, children, and the planet.
My work is about helping men discover who they really are: spiritually, sexually, relationally, emotionally, and mentally. Instead of proposing new theories or standards of masculinity, I provide men with tools to embody who they really are. It is not enough to know differently, but to act differently.
Part of making these changes involves creating a world that supports the highest good for everyone. This means holding ourselves and others accountable for how we think, behave, and relate to one another. It means taking a stand on what is most meaningful to us, and for the kind of change we wish to see in the world. Many of us are aware of the level of corruption, greed, dishonesty, and harm perpetrated by those in power. Few of us, however, are willing to acknowledge our own personal power and take action to hold leaders accountable — creating the kind of world we want instead of becoming apathetic and going along with the status quo. My work is about helping people become the change they wish to see in the world and come together with other people to create new possibilities for how we can live.
(DG): A lot of the work that you do focuses on the act of changing who we are. With so many people aware that our dominant culture is unhealthy and unsustainable, how do we move forward/ how did you begin to following through on your intentions to change?
(DF): Although it has become cliché, Gandhi’s quote, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” gets to the heart of where we can begin. We have the most power in changing ourselves, not others. Many people would rather blame others rather than take accountability for their own behaviors, and this only perpetuates the problems. Many people are angry, afraid, and sad about the current state of our world. It is important to honor our feelings and become present to them so that we can respond instead of react. Then, we can take clear action with compassion.
At the same time, the world does not revolve around us as individuals. We are not solely responsible for everything that happens. Therefore, coming together with other people is crucial in order to create the critical mass that is required for large-scale change. The problem, however, is that we’ve created an”us vs. them” mentality that only perpetuates separation. Instead of seeing other people as wrong or bad, we must be willing to come together with people who are different than ourselves and find “third ways” that work for the highest good of everyone. If things only benefit what 51% of the people want, such as in the previous election, then 49% don’t benefit. In my opinion, no one really wins; we are no longer a nation, but two separate factions. Where is the sense of community (or unity) that so many people claim that they want?
We need to stop imposing our own desires upon others, and recognize that we are all in this together. We need to cultivate enough humility, to acknowledge our part so that we can hold others with compassion, empathy, and respect instead of self-righteousness, superiority, and judgment. The answers can be found in the collective wisdom, not our personal views.
This is how I have strived to live my life. Even though I don’t always live up to my own standards, I do the best I can in each moment and learn from my mistakes. I have also come to a place of appreciation for what is, right now, no matter how messed up the world seems. Coming to a place of acceptance that nothing needs to change and that nothing is wrong gives me the strength and awareness to take inspired action instead of act out.
(DG): As so many people thirst for deeper connections with themselves, their community and the earth many turn to indigenous cultures for context and structure. Do you incorporate into your work indigenous practice that you may have no lineage to?
(DF): Many indigenous practices involve living close to and in alignment with the earth. Any of us can do this, right now, regardless of our heritage. We can spend time in nature, slow down, and connect with the Earth, whether it’s spending time in a forest, connecting with an animal, or being present with the air we breathe. This has nothing to do with any particular lineage, but instead cultivating a different mindset and way of life.
We all have indigenous roots, regardless of race. Non-Natives can discover those roots and learn about where they came from. As far as specific ceremonies and rituals, I am grateful to partake when they are offered to me. Otherwise, I don’t use them. I either use rituals from my own lineage, or ones that I have created that hold meaning for me.
Overall, my view is the same regardless of culture, gender, race, or any other categorization: instead of looking to others to tell you who you are or should be, go within to discover who you are. Use your relationships as mirrors through which to know yourself more deeply, not as gurus.
(DG): Specifically, you focus your work on the narrative of masculinity. Why? Why is this important? What was a big break through for you, an ah-ha moment?
(DF): I actually first started doing men’s work when I was a student at Evergreen and joined a men’s group on campus. Right away, I had a sense of coming home and connecting with a sense of belonging and connection that I had been yearning for but didn’t know how to find.
I believe that women are ahead of the curve in changing standards of what it means to be women, and that it’s time for men to step up. Many of our current struggles come as a result of our gender conditioning, and men’s conditioning in particular has created an excessive amount of violence, separation, abuse, and disconnection that impacts everyone. By taking a stand and creating a new paradigm for how being a man can look, everyone benefits.
(DG): Your new boo is, “Radical Men: Simple Practices for Breaking the Myth of Masculinity and Embodying Your Authentic Self. What is something specific you hope to impart to readers and why is this book so important now within our current culture and time? What is one myth that you can share with us?
(DF): The gist of the book is about discovering who you really are and moving beyond the “shoulds” and standards that are imposed upon us by media, society, and institutions. I hope that this book will help men create changes that not only serve themselves, but that are in service of the planet. Instead of coming away with new insights and understandings, I hope that men will do the practices in the book and actually make changes in their lives. The practices are very simple and easy to do in the midst of daily life, and can be done by anyone regardless of where they are on their path.
(DG): What’s something you are excited about right now?
(DF): This book! Having just finished graduate school, I am ready to get it out there and promote it in whatever ways I can.
(DG): When not teaching, counseling, and your other work – what do you do?
(DF): I have been a professional guitarist for twenty years and still love to play. I grew up playing thrash metal and then started doing a lot of classical guitar. I like many different styles of music, and incorporate a lot of them into my playing nowadays. I also love playing drums; because, however, it isn’t practical to have a drum set in our house, I play the drums with the Rock Band video games instead. Very fun!
Aside from that, I love being in nature and spending time with my family.
(DG): You seem to be an individual who has carved out a living based on clear/strong personal values, What has that experience been like?
(DF): In many ways, it has been a “choiceless choice.” I don’t really know any other way to live other than to follow what is true for me. At times I’ve longed for a simpler path, but, deep down, what I do is truly fulfilling. Even though this work isn’t always easy and at times can be quite heartbreaking, I am fortunate to be doing what I love and what is most sacred to me.
(DG): I was meaning to also ask how Evergreen supported you in your aspirations? And what did you do at Evergreen?
(DF): At Evergreen, I focused a lot on natural history from an indigenous perspective. Instead of studying nature from a detached, scientific perspective, I wanted to become closer to nature and relate as a part of it. I studied things like nature awareness skills, basic survival skills, animal tracking, ethnobotany, and relationships in the natural world. This helped me understand how all things are connected, become more attuned to my surroundings (including people), and gain a systemic approach to the world.
Studying these things at Evergreen supported me in being self-motivated and self-disciplined. I learned how to go after what mattered to me and create something meaningful. I had the freedom and the support to make a difference.
(DG): In closing, Do you have any advice for individuals setting and following through with their New Year resolutions?
(DF): In our culture, we typically try to “go big” rather than slow down, become more present in our daily lives, and keep things simple. I don’t really believe in big resolutions, because they are often unrealistic and difficult to attain. It is more practical to take smaller steps that can be easily accomplished and that can be embodied on a regular basis.
The essence of my work involves using micro-practices that can be done in the midst of daily life. Typically, these practices take no more than five minutes each. This allows people to integrate new habits in a manner that is practical, easily accessible, and integrated. Examples include breathing for two minutes three times a day, pausing to rest for one minute in between activities, or being present with your food while eating.
Focus on what you can do on a daily basis, and keep whatever it is short and simple. Write down your commitments that you can see them regularly, and make them as specific as possible.
The most important thing is to have the proper support. Tell people of your goals, and ask for their support. Find a partner or group for ongoing support. Check in regularly, and adjust your goals and actions as needed rather than punishing or being hard on yourself when you fail. For some people, it can help to have consequences for not following through.
To find out more of what David has been doing you can visit his website: www.DavidFranklin.net