Dance Like Zorba the Greek: Getting in Touch with Your Wild Man

by Brett on July 12, 2010 · 49 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

We talk a lot about gentlemanly behavior and comportment on The Art of Manliness. I think it’s a trait we can all use more of and our culture finds in short supply. Acting like gentlemen builds our self-respect, makes our interactions with others more pleasant, and brings civility back to society.

But I don’t think we should pursue manners and self-discipline to the detriment of our Wild Man. The idea of the Wild Man was popularized in recent times by Robert Bly’s book about men entitled Iron John. In the book, Bly analyzes the Grimm fairy tale of Iron John and how it relates to a man’s mental and emotional development. To Bly, Iron John is the archetypal Wild Man. He’s covered in hair, he’s big, and he’s earthy. Iron John lives in the forest where it’s dangerous and mysterious. He scares civilized society because he doesn’t always follow the rules.

But according to Bly, the Wild Man isn’t some macho dude or savage man who takes pleasure in violence. The Wild Man is filled with masculine strength or what Bly calls Zeus Energy. The Ancient Greeks called this energy thumos or spiritedness. The Wild Man is the opposite of the pony-tailed New Age guy who only cultivates his nurturing or feminine side. The Wild Man has a fierceness that he’ll use to fight for what he thinks is right. The Wild Man isn’t afraid to shout what he wants and mean it. In short, the Wild Man isn’t afraid or ashamed of being a man.

In Iron John, the Wild Man takes a young boy out into the woods away from his parents and in the process teaches the boy about being a man. According to Bly, we all need to take that trip out into the wild and learn from the Wild Man in order to grow into a complete and mature masculinity. We need to be gentlemen and civilized, yes. But for a man to be truly happy and live a full life, he cannot neglect his Wild Man.

Zorba the Greek Dances His Heart Out

A film that perfectly captures man’s need to get in touch with his Wild Man is Zorba the Greek. Zorba is a man who lives life fully. He’s earthy. He’s filled with with that life giving Zeus Energy that Bly talks about. He’s the Wild Man.

Basil, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s a buttoned-down British gentleman who always says and does what’s proper and what’s expected of him. He’s lifeless, boring, and predictable.

There’s this awesome scene in the film where the difference between Basil and Zorba is highlighted perfectly. Watch:

Zorba dances like a mad man and Basil watches in awe. I love the look that Zorba gets on his face when he hears the music start to play. It’s a look that says, “I’m about to get wild. Join me or get out of the way!” But Zorba’s masculine energy and thumos makes Basil uncomfortable, so he stops Zorba.

If you think about it, that’s how we often treat manliness in our modern world. We’re afraid of manliness, and we try to tame it. We want to throw the Wild Man in a cage. Just look at the way we treat boys in our public schools. Boys by nature love rough and tumble play and are full of energy. They wrestle with each other on the carpet during reading time. They shout out answers without raising their hands. They get restless during grammar lessons, but light up with excitement when they get their hands dirty with a science experiment.

But what do we tell these boys? Behave! Sit still! Quiet down! We basically ask boys to act like girls. If asking and shaming doesn’t work, we tame the Wild Boy with pharmaceuticals.

I’ve seen this in my own life. I remember as a boy my friends and I would build giant dirt ramps in the fields behind our houses. I’d race my bike with wild abandon towards the incline and then propel myself into the air. For a brief moment I took flight, and I relished the feeling of absolute freedom. Yeah, I got hurt. But that was part of the excitement- the risk of serious physical harm. My friends and I were mad for adventure, and we looked for it every day.

Fast forward to today, and that Wild Man I once had has been tamed. After years of being told to “behave” and do what’s safe, I’ve become hyper risk-averse. Law school only made my aversion to risk even worse. As a lawyer, you’re trained to see and avoid problems so you don’t end up in court. I know I’ve annoyed Kate more than once by endlessly detailing everything that could possibly go wrong when we’re trying to make a decision.

But back to Zorba and Basil.

At the end of the film, Zorba the Greek and Basil sit together on a beach after witnessing the destruction of a giant zip line contraption that Zorba created to ferry wood down from a mountain. They share some wine and lamb and while they eat Zorba imparts some advice to his dull friend:

The scene really resonates with me because I know exactly where Basil is coming from. I think a lot of us do. We’ve spent our whole lives “behaving” and trying to please those around us. We go to college because that’s what we’re “supposed” to do. We work in careers that give us prestige, but don’t excite us at all. We play it safe and hope we can just get by in life. In the process, we’ve tamed the Wild Man within us and lost our passion for life.

Zorba is right. If a man wants to be truly free and truly alive, he has to have a bit of madness. You have to, as Robert Bly would say, be in touch with your Wild Man. Just look at how happy the two men are as they dance like Wild Men. When was the last time you were that full of joy? In our modern vernacular, “madness” has a negative connotation. We think lunatics and straight jackets when we hear the word. But that has not always been the way madness was viewed. The Ancient Greeks acknowledged the kind of madness that made a man insensible, but also believed in an entirely positive type of  madness. For them, positive madness was a gift from the gods, powerful divine inspiration that superseded reason. The Ancient Greeks believed four kinds of divine madness existed: 1) madness of prophecy, 2) madness of love, 3) madness of poetry, and 4) madness of ritual. In the Phaedrus, Plato said that these forms of madness were “the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men” and that the “greatest of good things come to us through madness.”

Madness inspires men to create beautiful pieces of art and to love passionately and deeply. Madness imparts flashes of wisdom and insight and spurs men to attempt amazing and inspiring feats that a more reasonable and “sane” man would never venture to try.

When I think of some of the great men from history that I admire, many of them have this madness that Zorba talks about. When the world told them to “behave” or do the “reasonable thing,” they told the world to go to hell and they danced like Zorba right in the world’s face.

How to Dance Like Zorba

Some of you might be reading this and thinking “I’m Basil! I’m the boring stiff who’s lost all passion for life. I’ve tamed my Wild Man. How can I be more like Zorba?” I’ll readily admit I’m still in the process of getting back in touch with my Wild Man, but here are a few things I’ve learned that might help some of you.

Ask for help. In Iron John, the young boy learned about his wild side directly from the Wild Man. Basil learned how to dance from the Wild Man, Zorba the Greek. I’m sure we all know men in our lives that are full of Zeus Energy. They’re like Zorba the Greek.  Seek these men out and ask if you can just hang out with them every now and then. You don’t have to ask your Wild Man mentor questions about what it means to be a man. Just talk and do stuff with him. The thing about Wild Man energy is that it’s life giving and contagious. It rubs off on people and inspires fierceness in other men.

Do one uncomfortable thing every day. One thing that’s helped me to get in touch with my Wild Man is to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible. Do something you’ve been wanting to do for awhile now, but have been putting off because it made you uncomfortable. Ask your boss for a raise. Ask that attractive woman you’ve been saying “hi” to for the past few months on a date. Talk to a stranger. Yeah, they’re not very dangerous, but all these activities involve some risk. You could be rejected and you might have your ego bruised. The Tame Man wouldn’t even bother to try because he can’t face that sort of discomfort. The Wild Man lives for the uncertainty and doesn’t take it personally if someone tells him to take a hike.

Do dangerous stuff. Alright. You’ve made some baby steps by doing stuff that would normally make you uncomfortable. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch. Go out and do something dangerous. Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying to be stupid. If you’ve never skydived before, I don’t recommend base-jumping from the Grand Canyon right off the bat. But find an activity that you’ve avoided because you were told all your life that it wasn’t safe. Shoot a gun. Go white water rafting. Hitchhike. Play rugby. Ride a motorcycle. Just do something dangerous and watch how the Wild Man responds to it. He’ll love it.

Push yourself physically. I love what AoM contributor, Chris Hutcheson said about getting in touch with your Wild Man.

“I think using your body to full capacity goes a long way towards getting in touch with your wild man. For example, I get the wild man feeling right about the same time I feel like I’m going to puke when I’m on a long hike up a mountain, or in the final minutes of a tied up rugby match when I have to run and hit even harder than I have been the entire match just to seal the deal. Something about knowing that I’m pushing the limit physically is what does it for me.”

Spend some time in the wild. Makes sense doesn’t it? If you want to get in touch with your Wild Man, then you need to spend some time in his natural habitat-the wild. We go from our climate-controlled houses to our climate-controlled cars to our climate-controlled office to our climate controlled gym and then back into our hole. You need to seek an environment that isn’t controlled at all, that’s free, natural, wild. Head out into the forest and mountains. Breathe air that hasn’t been recycled. Touch things that haven’t been manufactured. Go a few days without showering and get some real dirt on your body.

Dance like a Zorba. Have you ever been to a concert or a wedding and noticed how most of the men behave? They usually have their arms folded as they self-consciously tap their foot to the beat of the music. But we modern men in the West have forgotten the power of dance. We think it’s below us, that it’s just not cool or manly. Zorba the Greek would object.

There’s always that One Guy at the party or concert who understands this and just gets into it. He’s jumping around and gyrating to the rhythm of the music, and he doesn’t care what the hell other people think. He’s Zorba.

There’s something primal and wild about dancing. Every primitive tribe had a dance that only the men participated in. It was a way for men to tell stories, worship, prepare for battle and express their emotions fully.

This week, I want you to try to do your best Wild Man, Zorba dance. You can even do it in a place where no one will see you. Put on a favorite song and just dance your heart out for that one song. Your mind will tell you to stop, that you’re crazy.  But don’t listen. That’s just the wussy Basil-side of you telling you to be sane. To keep the Wild Man in his cage.

But if you want to be free, you have to be a little mad. Dance on, brother. Dance on.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter Shallard - The Shrink for Entrepreneurs July 12, 2010 at 2:43 am

Love this post guys.

This one is a real kick in the ass and a challenge for me … and it’s good to be pushed outside my comfort zone a bit. I love the no-BS style of the tips ;)


2 JG July 12, 2010 at 5:54 am

“Do one uncomfortable thing everyday”

Does going to the salon with the woman and participate count?

3 Marvin July 12, 2010 at 7:22 am

Fantastic advice! I’m working on this myself and trying to make sure I teach my son so that he isn’t always a “nice quiet little boy”!

4 George July 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

As a native Greek, i always understood the way Zorba behaved and lived. in fact i believe that Kazantzakis wrote it in inspiration from a real Zorba who lived in Crete. I must tell you that that way of life is common and simple (ancient Greeks also believed in simplicity) for the Greeks but i must tell you that any European and American i’ve met is transformed in a way by this rush of madness that the Greek music and the laughter and the shouting and the hugging and the teasing among both men and women in a way that its almost magical. If you live outside Europe go to a wedding of a Greek colleague or a friend. You will see what i am writing about. Greetings from sunny Athens!!!

P.S. Very good article Bret!!!!

5 Mato Tope July 12, 2010 at 8:31 am

Once again, Brett and the Art of Manliness is bang on the money!
I stumbled upon your website about six months ago whilst looking up The Man In The Arena speech by Teddy Roosevelt. A reviewer of the film Invictus mentioned that the power of that speech, as much as the poem “Invictus” itself, helped Nelson Mandela through his darkest days. Since then I’ve found almost every article by yourselves to be an uplifting tonic in a world of mediocrity.
Like Zorba, the AoM ethos aims towards living a life of knowledge and understanding but which is also rich, sensuous and full of meaning. There is a time for contemplation, study and meditation yet there is also a time for verve, vitality and care-free jollity and of knowing the importance of deep pleasure.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Stirling stuff Brett.

6 Blake July 12, 2010 at 9:31 am

This site never ceases to amaze me!

7 John Fleming July 12, 2010 at 11:59 am


8 Jason July 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Great stuff as usual Brett.

One thing to add, if I may. If one has never ridden a motorcycle before, I strongly advise against just jumping on one and going for a spin. Instead, a gent should man up and take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course ( ). For a small fee, you’ll receive a few hours of classroom instruction and then will spend around another 10 hours on a riding range. In this controlled environment you will get to apply the classroom basics and learn to ride on a beginner friendly motorcycle. Motorcycling is indeed dangerous stuff, and while you can still fall over and get banged up while taking the MSF course, you won’t have to worry about a car plowing into you while you figure out how to get back into first gear.

The MSF class will provide the motorcycle and a loaner helmet, you’ll just need to arrive with a long sleeve shirt, pants, gloves, sturdy shoes or boots that go over your ankle, and eye protection. Your local MSF class can provide more details on what you’ll need to provide.

I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but way too many men who would be new riders become seriously injured or killed in motorcycle accidents every year because they choose to ride without instruction. Don’t be that guy.

9 CA July 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I love this post. I’ve pretty much always been the wild man, and people just don’t get it. I get stared at when I laugh “too loud” at a good joke, or when a good song comes on at a restaurant and (if and where appropriate) I pick up my infant son and dance with him. I drive a motorcycle to work most days and I like to shoot large-caliber firearms.

I think the key to engaging one’s wild man is not to care if you look silly to people sometimes, and to be able to laugh at yourself. In my experience it also helps to learn some sort of performance art. Once you get past caring about people’s stares, the wild man can come out.

10 Erick July 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Being a father I don’t take the risks I once did when I was younger. Mainly because I don’t want to do something wreckless that would cause a detriment to my sons life. But I fully embrace the idea of pushing yourself, your body, to full capacity. I greatly enjoy lifting weights. It’s a passion, and there is something completely enthralling about staring at a bar and realizing how much weight you’re about to squat, deadlift, press, whatever. A weight that scares you. And then you clear your mind and you do it, sometimes I feel like passing out it is so intense. But for that moment I am free, I am powerful, and I am in control of everything.

11 John July 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm


12 Samuel Warren July 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I loved this post, it excites me and motivates me! This is a quote from one my wild man role models, Bear Grylls the host of Man vs. Wild. I think it relates: ‘Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, covered in scars, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘yahoo!’, what a ride.’”

13 RebeccaFM Talk July 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

My husband read this to me this morning. I LOVED it. We have a house full of girls and one son. My heart gets so angry at the society changes that have stripped our males of their manliness in an attempt for “order”. I am the legal one and my husband and I laughed as we recognized ourselves in the writers description of himself and his wife. I am always calculating the risks and working out what could happen & preparing for what if. My husband is the one eating the old food out of the fridge, skydiving, pushing the kids (and me) to the adventure. The connection to the loss of risk taking and being legally minded was very interesting. I look forward to seeing my husbands wild man unleashed and encouraging my son to reach for the sky in adventure. AND our daughters as well :) Some of us females have a hidden wild man as well that is forced into hiding.

14 Justin July 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

THANK YOU, Brett. I’m so glad iron John and the Wild Man made an appearance on AoM. I’m also so glad you are willing to put this advice out there when you can admit that you’ve become a “Basil”. So many people won’t take the initiative to tell others to do things that they struggle to do themselves, but that’s really backward from how it should be. We’re all on a journey and just because we haven’t reached the goal doesn’t mean we can’t help others find the path.

I’m going to re-read Iron John again, it’s been a while.

15 Ron July 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I remember spending hours outside collecting creatures. I rarely ever “bought” pets, I was always the kid who “caught” his own.

…I think I’ll cut off this PC and head outside.

16 Chad Lucas July 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Hey Brett,
Thanks for the post. I love it! I think these words speak to any man’s heart, even the ones that have been tamed.
Recently my brother and I have been on a quest to awaken our Wild Man. After years of living in suberbia we are now spending a great deal of our time exploring, hiking, and doing everything that stirs those feelings of manliness within us.
As for your thoughts on injecting a bit of madness into life I thought you might enjoy this:
About a month ago when my brother and I were hiking we came to a tall rock wall. Instead of going around we decided to go up and over. One of my friends who was with us said that it was crazy. To which my brother replied, “In everything good, there is a bit of crazy!”
Again thanks for the post and for the encouragement to continue pursuing the Wild Man.


17 Chad Lucas July 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Oh P.S.,
As for pushing limits, I am about to go try out the Spartan 300 workout. How’s that for stirring up the Wild Man!

18 Giorgos July 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm


As a Greek I just had to write a comment.

I live in America, but am lucky to live in a Greek community. Each spring we have a Greek fest and when I was in High School I would dance in the performances.

Our motto was “To be Greek is to DANCE Greek” If you ever get a chance got to a Greek wedding or something and jump right in!


19 Sidney July 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm

This has always been one of my favorite movies since I was a teenager. Ive tried to explain it and share it with others but they usually end up bored which is a damn shame since the many message of this film offer so much.

I love this film for many reasons but I love one message in particular. It reveals to me that you cannot view life with just one perspective because you would would be missing out on the many beautiful and different things that life has to offer (either the subtleties, like a good book and glass of wine, or the joy of living recklessly, wild parties and crazy stories.)

A man cannot be tied up with ideas with his mind in the clouds while losing touch with reality. Conversely, a man cannot submit to his wildest fantasies without regard to how it affects others. This film is a shining example of this very authentic dichotomy that should be a warning and a challenge for the modern man.

It encourages me that others look at life and in particular this film with the same enthusiasm. Great Article.

“To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble” -Zorba

20 Greg July 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm

For some phenomenal dancing (Greek and otherwise) seek out your local Balkan Brass Band. Or attend the Zlatne Uste Golden Fest in NYC, if you’re on the East Coast.

This is really the place to let the wild dancing man loose, with the tubas and the drums and a good chunk of New York’s Roma community dancing like crazy from 6PM till 4AM.

21 Mike Sacher July 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Most folks, I know, think I’m crazy when I let go;. but it is only at those times that I am truly happy.
“Two roads in the woods, diverged and I ” went between them through the trees screaming my ass off.
Bob Frost just didn’t get it.

22 Seth July 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Great post and great timing, currently in the middle of reading Iron John. Got turned on to it based on an interview I had read in a magazine with Jack Johnson who is one of my favorite singers. It’s a pretty fantastic read so far :)

23 Gerard July 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm

You know, after reading a lot of posts on this blog, I thought myself too much of a wild man. It’s really a relief to know that a lot of things I used to do (like dancing crazily) aren’t so terrible as I recently began to think. It’s still in there, my wild man, and it will call to come out on occasion.

24 TheWarrior July 12, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Because of this post’s awesomeness, I’ve fully embraced it here. Magnificent!

25 Kash July 13, 2010 at 1:12 am

Great post! I love it!

My 3 favourite takeaways:

1. Do one uncomfortable thing a day – this ties in with the post you made about risk. If you don’t take any risk you don’t get much of a reward. I’m really going to look out for opportunities to do at least one uncomfortable thing every day!

2. Do dangerous things – I got into riding motorbikes a while back and there is an exhilirating feeling when you ride one! It makes you feel so alive and completely clears your mind of worry (ironically) because you have to focus fully on what youre doing.

3. Pushing yourself physically – I have to agree with this. When I play sport (badminton and squash) and my heart is pumping and I’m dripping sweat and fighting hard to win the next point in an epic rally with a formidable opponent, I feel like my mind body and spirit are ‘wild’, fully engaged and in focus. There’s no feeling like it!

26 Titus July 13, 2010 at 3:41 am

Great post, Brett.

Since I discovered this website, it’s been a real inspiration to me.
We need to be reminded who we really are and that life needs to be lived to the fullest.

Keep up the good work, guys.

27 Scott Goegebuer July 13, 2010 at 3:57 am

What a great post!

I am a freelance worker, and hustle to make my business happen, and also see this kind of thought process important to success in being on my own.

This is vital male energy!

My wife calls me her cave man, and I hope for my son’s sake that I come across that way. We eat, sleep, and live as natural as possible, and when I have an emotion, I try not to keep it in. I feel this has been positive for my daughters as well. They know that a man can be caring, loving, and also out of control once in a while as well. As far as they are concerned, Daddy has more feelings than other people can deal with.

I am very proud they feel that way. I hope my girls find men with vital energy! I hope my son can keep his, and find that balance to also be in the working world.

Being a big, powerful man is more than size.

Live big.

28 clifford July 13, 2010 at 3:16 pm

“Zorba is right. If a man wants to be truly free and truly alive, he has to have a bit of madness.”






29 Michael July 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm

This is a good article, about a good thing. I would add that we shouldn’t forget that the societal separation from our bodies hurts girls as much as it does boys.

So while you’re bringing out the wild man in yourself, remember also to help the women in your life find their own energies. Just because girls are easier to cow than boys on average doesn’t mean they want to be forced to live lives of quiet desperation.

30 Michael July 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm


Spot on, brother. Spot on.

I can’t tell you how strangely some of my own colleagues look at me when I’m wild and excited during meetings at work or school. Thanks for this post, and it’s encouraging to know that I’m more than just a hyperactive ball of fire, even though some bitter people won’t hesitate to label me an outcast.


31 Paul II July 14, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Awesome post!

There is certainly a definitive line between stupid and “wild”, and I think finding that wild man in you makes all the difference.

A lot of this has to do with becoming confident and comfortable with yourself. Once you conquer yourself, conquering other things will be much easier.

32 Nate July 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Outstanding piece! I’ve not seen Zorba the Greek, and now I need to. For those who haven’t read Iron John, by all means do. It’s a great book about topic that, for all the self-help books in the world, almost never gets written about. I thought Iron John loses steam toward the end (Bly tries to make EVERY facet of the legend into a metaphor, and it gets all little Freudian), but still a valuable read.

I also enjoyed the book “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge – a very similar view and I enjoyed it alongside Bly’s book. Wild at Heart is a Christian book, so there are some religious themes, but I think there’s value in it regardless of a man’s beliefs. Again, even if you disagree with some of his points, wouldn’t you rather be engaged with an author on a topic that matters?

p.s. Brett – the first reference to the author has him as John Bly, it’s Robert Bly. Love the site sir.

33 Jinky Williams July 14, 2010 at 5:46 pm

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”

This quote has disputed authorship, with people saying that it is a Celtic proverb, and others saying that it is Confucius. I side with the Celtic origin, because it just doesn’t sound like it goes with the overall message that Confucius tried to communicate.

But regardless, I love this quote. The Celts, who were fierce warriors, evidently understood the need of a warrior to not be a thug, but needed to be a lover to be a full man. Not necessarily being *in love* with someone, but having the capacity to love, to love things deeply, to engage emotionally, and not just with anger or rage. Being able to feel the pulse of life seems to be viewed as incredibly important to the Celts.

This quote puts perspective on the warrior as not just an occupation or a garb, something to be put on and taken off, but a lifestyle. The warrior as described in the proverb has the ability to thrive on and off the battlefield; could raise children and love a wife with as much ability as severing heads and smashing skulls.

Warriors aren’t just warriors on the battlefield, and the battlefield isn’t always physical. You can fight for your marriage with the same intensity that you physically fight to protect your wife.

Too long have men been relegated to the bench of wan, bookish niceness. It is my firm belief that the feminist movement wouldn’t have happened if men hadn’t relinquished their headship, instead taking up the mantle of passivity and inaction. The is the battle of every man: Step up to the plate and engage. Not like a brute, but like a man who is emotionally invested. The failure to do this has been what has haunted us since the dawn of time, since the first man. And it has been the catalyst of fractured caricatures of men, each who are incomplete images of what a man should be; certain ideals taken out of context, espoused unilaterally or understood incorrectly.

In order to be true men, we need to find the source of our masculinity, and what our purpose as men truly is. How can you succeed in something if you’ve no idea what the goal is?

34 Mark July 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I haven’t been as frequent a visitor to this site as I once was, and articles like this are why. I’m not here to trash it, or anything of the sort. I am fully aware that this is a fine example for most men, but it’s not something I can necessarily relate to.

Growing up, I wasn’t the “normal” boy who enjoyed playing rough or doing crazy things. I was naturally quiet and calm. My whole life, the idea of “doing something dangerous” has always seemed ludicrous because I don’t enjoy it. It’s not based in fear, it just has zero appeal to me. Likewise, I rarely feel the urge to dance (though I will if I do) – though I’ll give a skip or two while walking if I’m happy :) I can certainly appreciate the encouragement of individuality and not caring what society thinks, I just have so little in common with this general sense of “wild masculinity” that I’ve found myself rarely finding anything here to connect with.

I mean, my hero would never be someone like Teddy Roosevelt – it’s Mr. Rogers :)

35 Alejandro July 14, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I can relate! I’ve always been the good boy who did everything he was told and tried to be good, not cause trouble and think about other people. That’s fine – to an extent. It’s really gotten me nowhere. I was so shy and timid as a kid that it carried over into my adulthood and I’m still fighting it. I’m definitely more outspoken now than I ever have been. I told a friend recently, after an email of mine to everyone in my address book created a stir, that I just don’t care too much about what other people think about me anymore. I said what I said and that was it. Yea, it may have pissed off some people, but what the hell! You can’t please everybody! Now that I’ve forced myself to be more outspoken it’s time – at age 46 – to try out a motorcycle!

36 webdiva July 15, 2010 at 3:02 am

You wanna be a wild man?? Skip the stereotypical, midlife crisis motorcycle: dance Lindy Hop instead! Also known as swing, jitterbug, etc., by any other name would feel as sweet. Nothing like a great swing-out to make you feel goooooooood. And you’ll burn calories, too (*much* more fun than the gym!), possibly find your waist again beneath that beer gut. We can always use more good leads. :D

37 Insomniac July 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I used to be so afraid of failure that I never really dared. I would be the guy who didn’t dance because he was afraid of how silly he looked, didn’t ask the girl out because he was afraid of being rejected, didn’t play sports because he was afraid of losing and didn’t ask for a raise because he was afraid of being turned down. That’s no way to live. Sure, if you go all out you’ll fail every once in a while but so what?

You’re right, it is a miserable way to live. Unfortunately there are a great many men that have been so conditioned to this they see no way out of it, and become completely paralyzed by it. Even the slightest move become a terrifying proposition, because of the shame and brokenness of spirit they feel when they fail.

38 Stewart D. Berger July 17, 2010 at 1:08 am

There are many paths to getting more in touch with one’s masculinity and one’s wildness. One way is to dance with abandon or through dance steps or just being in the funky groove. Another way is to stretch one’s abilities, calling on one’s reserves of energy required for positive action. Another way is to be still and feel one’s central energy of beingness, feel one’s feelings, observe one’s thoughts about oneself, one’s state or level of manhood, giving thanks for that, and examining what next steps there might be in one’s development or association with others. Where is the shadow energy I can release and possibly convert for positive use? Where am I using optimal masculine energy? Where do I need to grow? In the end, I find there’s a season for everything–outer action and inner contemplation–where we can extend in whatever direction is right at the time. And it’s about balance, balancing the energies of the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover archetypes that we each have access to, so that our actions will be balanced, though we sometimes draw on the energy of one quadrant more than the others. The man is present within–all we need to do is be in touch with him–he’s us, after all. Uncover the masculine, embrace it, reveal it at times, and keep it hidden at other times. No need to show all over the place.

One comment was made above about the feminist movement, that it didn’t need to happen. I disagree. Some people say everything happens for a reason. I’ve seen clear signs that patriarchy has dominated in our culture. I KNOW that both men AND women have the right and the opportunity to connect with their full potential and allow that full, clear, mature, deep, high and wide energy to manifest through us. It takes both men and women, and balance is needed there too. We’re partners in bringing forth life on earth, and I don’t just mean children–I mean the manifestation of ourselves as creative beings. Let men be men and let women be women–then we have a real society, full of juice, creativity, life, and dancing!

39 Kenmore July 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm

At first I worried that I am too much like Basil, and not enough like Zorba. But after some meditation, I recalled the times when I felt like an animal pulling against it’s chain.

Last night some friends went to a show for a local jazz festival that is going on in my city. I decided to take Zorba’s advice, and I tried cutting the rope. I danced nearly non-stop for three hours in the pulsing crowd, and it felt glorious.

Also, I ordered “Zorba the Greek” on DVD earlier this week. My local shop didn’t have it in, so it’s coming in the mail. I look forward to viewing it with some friends when it arrives.

40 Tirso July 21, 2010 at 1:00 am

I just watched Zorba for the first time last night. It’s a great film, with amazing acting, if a little twisted in certain ways. Regardless, an interesting lesson in manliness. One must find the balance…

41 Johann July 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

Wow! I Am Zorba. I always have been. I*m always the guy at the bar who goes up and rocks out to the music the band is playing, while everyoneelse stands by akwardly. Then a few people will come up and join Me. After a few songs, half the bar is up there. I get a variety of good and bad reactions from people for this.

Thanks for this article brother. I have been living wild My whole life. It’s nice to be given some recognition. Also encouraging is how many people like this article. It would be good to see other people not always worrying what someone else might think if they would, for once, get off their ass and Live a little!

42 Rich July 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Here’s something that ties in to the theme of this article and reminds us that madness is a necessary part of life…in Ancient Greece, the oracle at Delphi (the most important oracle in the world at the time) was ruled by Apollo, the god who personified reason and control and moderation in all things. But for 3 months of the year Delphi was ruled by Dionysus, the god of wine and madness and lack of control. The ancient Greeks understood that a good life was a process of moderating the competing influences of reason and madness, but you HAD to give madness it’s due or it would take over. Read Euripides’ “Bacchae” and you’ll understand that pure reason leads to insanity and death…there must be a place in life for madness.

43 nick strates July 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm

let me just tell you guys, this post was the best yet! Now i have only been on this world for 17yrs so you could say i have not seen much. but i too have looked around crowds and people and seen “men” standing around trying to act as tuff as posible by not doing anything crazy. I for one do not do this and do what ever i feel i need to. and if thats looking like a fool WHO CARES! For, i am half greek and Zorba has been almost like a grandfather to me, i have learned his dance and now because of this post, his way of living. Just as a wild man should. they way i see it, as long as you make one person laugh, doing something crazy, and dance each day. you will be ok!

44 j. oliver July 25, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I’ve been reading this daily for a week or so now, trying to get a real grip on it, to get truly acquainted with the ideas. I watched Zorba last night, and agree with Tirso that it is both great and twisted :-). Nick strates’ comment is the latest one showing right now – it’s an awesome springboard for some thoughts I’m processing…

I was 17 a while back, full of strength and optimism and a disdain for all things orthodox. Older, calmer people dimissed it as youthful energy. “Oh, when I was your age…!” they’d say with nostalgic smiles. Now I am 31. I have a wife, who doesn’t totally understand my need to dance in church; I have also a newborn son, who keeps me up all night and day with his eating and pooping and general awesomeness. And as much as I hate to say it, I AM slowing down. My wildness – my ability to dance with abandon – is fading. I hate losing it, but find it a difficult thing to reclaim.

The problem as I see it is two-fold:
1.) As we men get older, “wildness” becomes less and less socially acceptable, at least in part because
2.) The “wildness” we witness in a great many men is accompanied by selfishness and an inability to commit to anything (think “life of the party”); it is driven by a desperate searching, rather than a deep confidence. This is not the wildness the author speaks of here, but a restless, noisy couterfeit.

I’m going to work on the steps Brett suggests – talking to strangers and joining a martial arts class or taking up running. I’ve been meaning to go camping alone for months; I’ll make that happen this summer. I sure appreciate the encouragement. However many well-meaning hunters and runners and gregarious I know, I am still hard-pressed to find one who can mentor me in the ways of the Wild. When I finally find this more mature version of my old madness, at last wrestle it to the ground and make it mine, when I find that path, I will make it a point to go back and clearly mark the way for those coming after me.

Perhaps this is the final step toward living the full life of a Good and Wild man.

45 Vince July 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I recommend a daily yell as loud as you can, even if no one is around.

46 Chris July 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Spot on.

For a slightly different perspective on the same conclusions as “Iron John,” try reading “Wild At Heart” by John Eldridge. Eldridge quotes Blythe frequently, but comes at the topic from the perspective of a Christian. If our culture in general has a tendency to put the Wild Man in a cage, the Christian sub-culture has perfected it to an art form. Modern Christianity has elevated being a “nice guy” to the highest goal of manhood. Eldridge busts this myth and shows how we have been designed by God to be distinctively MEN, not women, and that genuine masculinity is necessary in our society and for the advancement of God’s purposes here on earth.

Right now I am preparing to hike the backcountry of Glacier National Park with 7 other guys from church. One step closer to releasing the Wild Man from the cage.

47 David K. July 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Dude, this site rocks! Awesome post, too!

Haha, I always dance by myself like a madman. I’m gonna make it even more of a point to dance like a madman when I’m around people. Love it

48 James August 16, 2010 at 10:27 pm

This article took me straight back to surfing.

And, with all due respect to the southern parts of the great state of California, I’m talking about surfing Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and all points North.

Being in nature, where man belongs, where man came from, is a no brainer. Yet, we miss it, daily.

Technology is great, technology is evil. Technology allows us to share our thoughts here. Technology allows us dispatches from the farthest reaches of the earth. Technology gives us wetsuits and surfboard leashes, weather reports, warm cars with 8 speaker stereophonic surround sound as we drive back home from the sand. All nice stuff. Yet, let’s try it without the nice stuff. Without the nice stuff, both our bodies and brains will be pushed to the limits (and, might I add, not on some goofy reality show). By that very definition, we will be successful, we will grow, we will expand our souls to the flanks of the universe.

Be in nature. Be nature. For most of us, it’s only minutes away. Just this morning I watched a frolicking sea lion out on our milky bay waters and… felt a tinge of jealousy.

A perfectly natural response, I’d say. A perfectly natural response, based in survival of the fittest, starting with the survival of your own mind.

49 James August 16, 2010 at 10:35 pm

And, as much as a few of us might recoil at this, you should all see the power of the bravery of dance:

Ask yourself, what draws us to this activity?

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