Over a recent dinner conversation my very lovely female companion suggested to me that I was a King.
Flattery aside, I asked her to explain and she proceed to reveal to me the stages of a mans life per Alison Armstrong’s Keys to the Kingdom (full text download, and paperback here).
While I found Ms. Armsrong’s teachings widely available, and well described, I thought I would share a brief summary of her work with the interwebs in the hope of helping others catch Alison’s meme.
But first some Attribution
– Yes, I have copied liberally from others, including Ms. Armstrong, and from Alternatives Magazine The Male Road Map by Al Polito, but please play along and take note that this is a heartfelt post, and not some trafficy, linky link, paid content thing.
The Heroes Journey view of Men
The Page > The Knight > The Prince > Tunnel > The King
And if you are lucky > The Elder
Men begin their development as “Paiges.” Paiges are young boys who attended to Knights. They look up to the Knights, polish the swords, feed the horses, fantasize about the Knights’ adventures and get into all kinds of trouble. They drive their mothers crazy.
As a Paige enters late teen years, he becomes a Knight. The Knight charges off in search of adventure, rescues damsels, pursues treasure, and slays dragons whenever possible. Men in their late teens, through their late 20s or early 30s, are today’s “Knights.” They live for the challenge, which in modern life looks like sports, adventure, women, travel, and jobs that promise new challenges and problems that need to be solved. If it’s an adventure, a Knight will show up.
After a Knight has had his share of adventure or quest, often in his late 20s or early 30s, he typically feels the need to “build his kingdom.” He may live in a disorganized apartment with a few roommates, a refrigerator with beer, leftover pizza, jar of mustard and some dodgy Thai food takeout. He may be in love, feeling the urge to start a household, or he may just want to “grow up” and make something more of himself. He gets serious about his career or education, and enters a long phase of focusing intently on creating his “castle.”
It is at this point the Knight typically assumes the mantle of the Prince, a time of his life where his life is about something other than his own pleasure. Princes developing careers are often found working long hours, much to the chagrin of their girlfriends or spouses. They don’t have as much time for beer with their buddies, although the time they do get with friends can be precious. During this time, the prince’s significant other may begrudge him his singular focus on his career or education, but he has no choice. His identity quite often rides on what he is creating.
After a Prince has been at it for awhile (typically late 30s to 40s), he finds that his kingdom is “just about there.” He may have a family if not a home, and an established business or career. He looks back on what he created, all he has worked for, and something doesn’t feel quite right. Like Lester Burnham, Kevin Spacey’s character in “American Beauty,” he finds himself questioning all the things he took for granted—what makes him happy, who or what he’s attracted to, what he stands for, what he believes. He finds himself at a most uncomfortable crossroads, at the threshold of a tunnel that only he can enter.
Sometimes this phase is regrettably disregarded as “a midlife crisis.” However, this “tunnel” or existential reckoning must be viewed as the time a man begins to live life for himself in a way that he hasn’t done since he was a Knight. If his youth was sheltered, he might have an uncontainable urge to begin experimenting with his fascinations. Sometimes, the Prince will find that the kingdom he built was not the kingdom he wanted at all. In the process, various aspects of a man’s life may be shed: his career, his practical car, his significant other, his pretense, his inhibitions, whatever worked in the past that no longer serves—ultimately his inauthenticity. It may be a rough time. The magnitude of the changes called for may cause some men to shut down and settle back into their lives without making any changes. Such a man’s mind, heart, soul and body will rebel against him. His kingdom will be poisoned.
So, standing at the entrance and facing his tunnel, a man has the great opportunity to examine which archetypes have been running the show. Maybe a boy has been running the show, medicating with drugs or alcohol to avoid grief, or running a parade of women through his life in search of power or validation. Or conversely, a man who spent his life being a “caretaker” personality may find that the boy within him never got to play, and demands a good time.
Whatever the challenge of his tunnel, after he has been through his, a man will have emerged with a stronger sense of self. He will know what interests him and what does not. His tolerance for things he has left behind will evaporate. He has determined who he is and what he serves. He now bears the crown of the king.
Having figured out the hard way what he’s all about, the King lives to serve. Having been tested and proven by the trials of life, the King has authority, power, and strength. He walks taller, and cares less about what other people think. This doesn’t mean that his feelings can’t be hurt; on the contrary, if a king’s contributions are not valued, he feels not valued. Witness the father who wishes to help his daughter fix up her new house. He is eager to help with his hammer and level, and if she tells him she can take care of herself now, he will feel sad and slighted. A King wishes to serve and to have his contributions appreciated.
Certainly, it is the King Archetype (present in every man, young or old) that has him want to make a difference. But as a man grows into the fullness of his king energy, he will not suffer people who don’t appreciate what he provides for his kingdom. He doesn’t have time for that anymore.
And if a man is lucky, he may become an Elder
The last stage of King, usually lasts until the end of a man’s life. But some Kings go through a quiet but dramatic transformation to become an Elder. For Elders, they have nothing else to prove; they have no agenda and are beyond ambition. Elders spend time focused on contributing to others and on enjoying and appreciating all the gifts in their lives.