Many of us are strongly drawn to storytellers who share their lived experience. There is something wildly captivating in the autobiographical accounts of men and women who wear their heart on their sleeve. Who stand up with dignity and share their stories no matter how horrific or dramatic, no matter how simple or sweet. We resonate with honesty, we are reflected in shared humanity — simply put, we can trust an authentic and reliable narrator.
This is why I respect and listen to Ian McKenzie as he navigates his own journey of what it means to be a man in this century. He confessionally asks what it means to unburden himself of the old indoctrinated ways of expressing his masculinity. He has the balls to embrace and explore concepts of the feminine in his male form. It’s big and it’s complex. It’s political and it’s stagnant in religious ideology. It’s neither black nor white. It’s a brave person who takes these bold enquiries first hand and shares them with the world.
Creator and host of The Mythic Masculine podcast, filmmaker and writer, Ian MacKenzie has been tracking the emergence of new cultures for ten years. From the desert of Burning Man to the heart of Occupy Wall Street, he has sought and amplified the voices of visionaries, artists and activists who have been working toward planetary system change. He’s best known for his films Sacred Economics, Lost Nation Road, Amplify Her, Dear Guardians, and Occupy Love (directed by Velcrow Ripper), and the forthcoming, Love School.
Ian’s latest project called A Gathering of Stories is a celebration of storytelling genres from a truly eclectic and exciting constellation of entertaining narrators. The theme is, Tending to the Soul of the Masculine — Certain enough to elicit a compact exploration and abstract enough to invite diversity and range.
I asked Ian about his pioneering and very much needed work and here’s what he shared.
You have a strong affiliation with what you call the Soul of the Masculine. What motivates you to tell a truer story of masculinity which is now perhaps buried and lost in the rubble of the false patriarch?
I grew up in the suburbs outside Vancouver, Canada, a modern middle-class existence and I saw a degree of violence and corruption. I remember seeing the movie, ‘Spartacus’. I still have a sense of the effect on me seeing the aftermath of a war; bodies piled, most men had been killed. I remember feeling like, ‘What is wrong with men?’ It was so clear to me. I definitely grew, as often men do, with this understanding or this sensitivity that there’s a deep wound there. There was a distancing from that expression of Masculinity and shifting into what it is to be a ‘good guy’.
More recently, the narratives around the ‘Me Too’ movement and the emergence of the sound-bite ‘toxic masculinity’, are pointing to systemic oppression, trespass and violence against women. There’s a sort of irredeemable brand that is stamped on men and masculinity, in particular young men. That’s what it’s all about for me: to bring forth a redeemable narrative of masculinity that I feel is actually deeply connected to its true soul.
Storytelling is your gift, your offering, your opportunity to make amends — to not just do the right thing now, but really take on the responsibility, as a man, to own the past mistakes and learn from them. Is every story you tell via film, podcast, essay all to reclaim the true sacred masculine, to allow the soul of the masculine to speak?
I’ve been a filmmaker now for about thirteen years and a full-time creative. The medium of choice definitely shifts depending on the project. I didn’t start out to reclaim ‘the sacred masculine’ but I do feel I’ve been tracking that trail. I was really looking at what it means to connect one’s passion with meaningful work? I connected with Velcrow Ripper, a veteran Canadian filmmaker, he was looking at the zeitgeist and made a film called, ‘Scared Sacred’, which was looking at the ground zeros of the world and trying to find if there was anything good that came from these horrific events. He found there was — there was Hope in the mushroom cloud.
There’s the sense of wanting to step outside of this insane death machine that modernity has become. And so really all my work has been following that. Simultaneously, I was tracking the rise of the feminine. I got curious about female DJs and producers and electronic music as a way to tell this story. I recognized by diving into the feminine and feminine archetypes and feminine story mythologies how little I knew about the masculine. And of course, that brought me up to my own story and how I had distanced myself from masculinity. I recognized I had banished aspects of myself and I knew that I had to turn towards them in order to truly understand and to integrate them.
That’s what led me to create the Mythic Masculine podcast; bringing together people who had different, necessary perspectives on masculinity.
Your latest inspiring project, A Gathering of Stories, is a two-day storytelling festival, conducted over Livestream, bringing together renowned storytellers, musicians and poets from around the world, providing new insight and perspectives for ‘tending the soul of the masculine’. Can you explain what you mean by that?
I’ve asked the storytellers specifically to bring stories about masculinity. Whether traditional stories or newly arrived stories — acting as a prism into masculinity in these times. What is masculinity? Is it something unto itself or as Stephen Jenkinson said, “a way of inquiring.” I feel this gathering of stories is a way of exploring our world and so tending to the soul of the masculine is nourishing for anyone who has some vested interest in understanding masculinity, or what has happened to masculinity in this culture — Which is everybody really!
You called the art of storytelling, ‘This old-time magic.’ Is this ancient art form, with the help of technology, having a renaissance?
It’s interesting to me to try to craft something like this. I’ve hired a top-notch technical team to really provide the possibility to transmit some of this old-time magic of storytelling. The kind of magic that can happen when you’re actually there in the room with something alive, spontaneous, conjured when we are all together. We want to provide an experience that is as immersive as possible. We also have a live stage in Victoria, Canada. That’s where the main Livestream will be situated and myself as host and a live audience to provide atmosphere and to collaborate on making it as dynamic as possible. With the right ingredients, I really do think it’s possible to craft magic.
Part Two of this interview will be published next week — Stay tuned.
‘A Gathering of Stories’ – Entertainment with Intelligence! Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th February 2021.
Beloved UPLIFT Family,
We invite you to join this dynamic two-day on-line event, A Gathering of Stories, with some of the world’s most eclectic storytellers, musicians and spoken word artists.
Storytelling is medicine. Step into a realm of deep and intimate stories woven around the theme, ‘Tending to the Soul of the Masculine.’
You’ll hear a diverse array of voices from indigenous artists, to female voices on masculinity and men who want to dissolve the old patriarchal ways with a unified vision of charting a new path forward for humanity by exploring the evolution into healthy masculinity. After each session, you can engage live with the artist to reflect and ask questions.
Let’s gather and share the medicine of story as a way to map a better path forward.
A ‘Pay What You Can’ option is available – To purchase your weekend pass click here.
Paul and Team UPLIFT