Follow Here To Purchase What Aging Men Want: The Odyssey as a Parable of Male Aging


Author:John C. Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min.

Publisher:Psyche Books

ISBN:ISBN: 978 1 78099 981 4

To stick with the classics, you might say that this book, like all of Gaul, is divided, functionally, into three parts.

First, it is a skillful and erudite synopsis of the story of Homer’s The Odyssey. As I was reminded of the book’s twists and turns, I couldn’t help wishing that Anna (“I’m not making this up, you know”} Russell had done for it what she did for Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Robinson’s summary is done with a totally straight face, for which he deserves considerable credit.

Second, it contains an analysis of the story, equally incisive and impressive. I doubt that today’s students are troubling with the book any more than they are with the language in which it was originally written. Again, I found myself wishing that it had been around when I was studying Latin. I never used Cliffs Notes or lesser cheat sheets, but had I been tempted so to do, Robinson’s would clearly have been my first choice.

Third, Robinson seeks to apply the lessons of The Odyssey to the challenges facing modern men, particularly those who are approaching the inevitable end of their lives.

Robinson’s thesis would seem to be that Odysseus’ odyssey from Troy to Ithaca is not only a homecoming, but, more importantly, a personal transition from warrior to pussy cat or lap dog (choose the pet you prefer for both are famous for unconditional love, which Robinson clearly believes is a very good thing.)

In applying this model to today’s aging man, Robinson is obviously influenced by his own personal experience with aging, homecoming, and family reconciliation. This makes his accounts and advice especially vivid and heartfelt, particularly for elderly parents whose life anthem is Harry Chapin’s The Cat’s in the Cradle. However, this same strength and focus limits the value of his thinking to many other men who are facing retirement and beyond with totally different value systems and life experiences.

Robinson seems to assume that in warrior mode, men are oblivious to their softer, gentler, side, ignoring their wives and children, and have much to atone for later on as death approaches. He also seems to assume that death is a late-arriving surprise which takes men off guard.

Among the many premises of this book that many aging men will question, are:

That ambition and achievement, like a siren, are destructively seductive, rather than a value that can inspire men or women from the beginning to the end of their lives

That love is some sort of miasma which blesses all upon whom it spreads, especially friends and family members whoever they are and however morally valuable they may be

That men have to be near death to access their Softer Side of Sears. There are many men who have lived with it and benefitted from it since birth.

The book ends with suggestions for a ceremony that I found totally bizarre. It had elements of drug and alcohol interventions, college fraternity initiations without the hoods, macumba ceremonies, and exorcisms. I think I’d rather die than attend one in any capacity.

Men approaching death clearly need good advice: for example, butterflies are free but health insurance, especially these days, isn’t, so save up; friends and family members come and go but cannot, by virtue of that relationship alone, validate or invalidate your own life; love, rationally bestowed, can surely see one through one’s darkest days. Retirement does indeed usually involve the reduction of power over others, but money is a serviceable substitute. Nobody loves you when you’re down and out, so don’t be either.

There is a lot of the flower child in author Robinson. The linking of competition and aggression, the unconditional endorsement of indiscriminate love regardless of the merit of its recipients, the overweening value of family and friends in providing essential collective relief to the aging individual are clearly comforting concepts to many. However they are flaccid guideposts to others.

For the religious, faith-inclined reader, this book will be deeply satisfying. For those who posit reason as a force stronger than all the others, for those whose quest for achievement and the happiness it produces may need to be adjusted, but not abandoned by age, well…