Here are the details of two of the best books I’ve found to help men make sense of life beyond 50.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. ISBN 0747574561. This is written for men and women of any age, but it addresses one of the central problems for maturing men: how to become emotionally articulate, in the inner life and with others. To live happily, working with well emotional dynamics is far more important than mental IQ.
Although you may doubt if reading books can lead to major behaviour change, I believe some books can, including this one. It is written in clear, commonsense language, but it uses large-scale, rigorous academic research to validate its teachings, in a way which men trapped in the ways of logic should find very helpful.
If you read this book, and take it into your heart and head, it can lead to big improvements in all your relationships: not only intimate partnership, but also family, friends and work.
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. The Tempest was Shakespeare’s last play: its central character, Prospero, is believed to be semi-autobiographical, and to express a lot of Shakespeare’s own feelings about this life stage. The play actually starts with a physical shipwreck, and the imagery of shipwrecks runs through the play, along with exploration of how to create a new life. A great play to read, and even better in live performance.
I studied The Tempest for ‘A’ Level, and have been re-reading it and going to performances for over 40 years now. The older I get, the more depth of meaning I find. Prospero on his magical island has two servants, the sprite Ariel and the beastly Caliban. I’ve started to see these two as examples of the more extreme ways that maturing men may try to escape from the dilemmas they face. Ariel can conjure up music and illusions brilliantly, but is essentially air, ungrounded. Caliban has no conscience, no higher feelings: he lives at the animal level, he is impressed by swaggering idiots and overwhelmed by alcohol.
By contrast, Prospero shows us a maturing man trying to integrate these and many other parts of himself. He was usurped and exiled from his Dukedom by his brother, and now has the choice of taking his revenge or forgiving him. Prospero chooses to forgive him, but faces some difficult tasks as he returns from the solitude of the magical island to resume his position as Duke of Milan. Difficult because he has partly gone beyond worldly interests, and has reached an age where death and whatever lies beyond is claiming his attention. Critics believe there are deep echoes of Shakespeare himself here. Prospero knows that he must let go his passion for book-learning and the esoteric:
‘but this rough magic
I here abjure….I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.’
In the very last act of the play, where he is picturing his return to power in Milan, he comments that every third thought shall be my grave.
If you are wondering which 9 books complete my top 11, there are several ways to find out:
- Come to the Maturing Men weekend workshop on November 11 – 13: see www.hazelhill.org.uk for more details.
- Wait until my book is published, hopefully next year.
- Keep reading the Blog.