Men of the Code: Finding balance
Next weekend the men of Northern California will be presented an opportunity to explore “authentic masculinity” while becoming a “better leader, husband, lover, father, provider, organic gardener, eco-entrepreneur, forum member, friend, national and global citizen.”
It's a lot to accomplish in one weekend and all of it happens during an event billed as Agoge Level 2 Men's initiation, taking place July 29-31 at a location near Rollins Lake.
The word “Agoge” is said to have originated in ancient Sparta, denoting a “rigorous education and training regime undergone by all Spartan citizens, (except the eldest son in each of the ruling houses). It involved separation from the family, cultivation of loyalty to one's group, loving mentorship, military training, hunting, dance and social preparation.”
Brought to Nevada County by an organization known as Men of the Code, the event is the brainchild of Code founder David Fabricius, a self-described motivational expert who says that much of what will be presented during Agoge Level 2 Men's initiation comes from his experiences growing up in Africa.
“I lived in Africa for 45 years and annually, there is a tribal initiation for the young men who come of age as a rite of passage,” Fabricius said.
“In my professional career as an international leadership speaker, I've traveled to 142 countries and wherever I've traveled in the western world, I have seen the consequences of the lack of a healthy male masculinity initiation.
“In Africa, there is a tribal saying that says, ‘If you don't initiate the young men, they will burn down the village.' When we look at people today, particularly the masculine leadership, we are burning down villages all over the world.”
Fabricius is portrayed on the Men of the Code website as a robust, Indiana Jones type of adventurer, fully embracing life and his own masculinity in all its glory. He says he started Agoge Men's initiation because boys are growing up in western culture without strong role models.
“So many boys grow up with fathers who are absent, either physically or emotionally,” Fabricius said. “Boys have an innate need to be challenged and to be tested and to be validated. The only place where young men can get that today, other than through sports, is in gangs or the military. Typically, the gangs or war machine will provide that.”
The initiation rites Fabricius will provide for next weekend's participants will parallel those he witnessed in Africa.
He says that there, men of a village invite the young men to come out into the wilderness and be challenged spiritually, emotionally and physically by the elders regarding the important secrets and customs of the tribe.
“In this process, the boys of the tribe are typically put through an ordeal, going through a period of darkness, of suffering, of challenge in the wilderness with minimal resources,” Fabricius said. “Then they are given a big test and if they pass the test, typically they are then validated and celebrated and integrated into the community. Men of the Code is aiming to do that for young men, but also for mature men who may have missed out on this in their life.”
Fabricius, 51, says that he has been doing this sort of work with men since he was a teenager. The last 14 years of his life he has traveled the world, working with what he describes as the business elite in many of the world's largest cities. Typically, he takes them for a three-day excursion into the wilderness to develop leadership skills.
“Some of these very wealthy business owners, of some of the biggest brands you can think of, started asking me, ‘David, my son needs to inherit my company, I want to hand the keys of the empire to him, but I do not really believe — though he's been to Harvard or Oxford or some of the finest business schools and has an MBA, etc., etc. — I do not really believe he has that authentic masculine confidence,'” Fabricius said. “So they would ask me to take their sons for some of the initiatory experience.”
“We bring men into a weekend experience where we challenge him on every level,” Fabricius said. “We have a man take a very deep introspection of his life to see what's working and not working. We ask him to think about what healthiness looks like in the 21st century.
“Surely it can't be all that macho stuff anymore, but at the same time it can't be all this new age wimpy kind of stuff either. There must be a third and higher alternative.”
Fabricius is not eager to get into the specifics of activities planned for next weekend's retreat, saying that to do so would ruin the mystery and the impact for those who have paid nearly $500 to be there.
Waivers and confidentiality agreements will need to be signed by each participant.
“The whole idea is that men will gain skills during the weekend that will help them have more confidence as a man,” Fabricius said. “This extends into every vital area of a man's life from finance to sexuality. Collectively, we want those who walk away from the weekend to have a new sense of what it is to be a man. We want to help a men identify their core mission and life's work.”