Broadcast 5/7/2015 at 8:49 PM EDT (21 Listens, 22 Downloads, 1611 Itunes)
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast
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Sam and Gifford Keen co-authors of the new book, Prodigal Father Wayward Son; A Roadmap to reconciliation, sequel to Sam Keen's international bestseller, Fire In the Belly
Sam Keen is also the author of a dozen other books
Gifford Ken is a former software exec and real estate investor
Rough Interview notes, not verbatim, mostly my questions.
I start up setting up the premise of the book-- a unique, powerful way of healing a 54 year old relationship between father and son- not a horrible one, but with some pain and rough patches. And it's a way that could apply to a lot more than father and son.
Reading part of the prologue-- a very angry interchange between father and son.
Rob: This is a sequel to Fire in the Belly-- Tell us a bit about Fire In The Belly
this was an exploration of men's roles, opening up a conversation about what it is to be a man.
Rob: What is the message of fire in the belly
you're a lot more than your work, you're a lot more than your sexual orientation
Rob: How has your idea of what it is to be a man evolved as you've aged-- going from father of a young son, of an individuating son, as a grown son.
Sam: I didn't do what I said men should do in Fire In The Belly.
I learned to be more open, more vulnerable, I became a more feelingful man
A lot of my change of my views of men came from Gifford. When I saw how gifford parented. He taught me by example.
Rob: tell us about the book. What does it deliver? What are the most valuable lessons and messages? Who should read it and why?
Sam: everyone should read it.
Gif: I think there are a lot of themes to the book. At the most basic level it's about storytelling and the tremendous power that stories have in our lives-- and the stories that kept us apart-- mythic stories. Most men only had a few stories about their fathers. What I realized was that this handful of stories pre-conditioned all of my interactions with my father. " I couldn't get past them. They were the reason I couldn't move on.
Then, what happens when we start telling each other different stories-- stories we want to know and be known by. and that process creates tremendous healing and reconciliation.
Sam: let me put a fine on that. The first part of the men's liberation movement was about the pain of the missing father. Where were you? Why did you abandon me". Gif said-- I want to know who you are. Tell me the stories that define who you are.
We changed the stories from dad where were you to dad who are you?
We demythologized the myths-- and that was what was healing
Gif: This is primarily aimed at fathers and sons.
every one has stories. We're storytelling animals as.
Rob: could this process be applied to other areas--
sam: absolutely, I did a whole book on faces of the Enemy-- we demonize each other and make ourselves the angels and you the demons.
Rob: And you've done interviews that are on Youtube.
Rob: you both mention demythologizing.
GIF-- there are horrible stories that have been told in family gatherings in a kind of unconscious way. When I wrote them down I said to myself these are really weird stories and certainly don't recognize myself or my father in them. Getting them on paper"
Rob: Tell the egg story". you were six years old
Gif tells the story about being forced to eat a hard boiled egg covered with dirt and ants, because he's accused Gif of throwing it away. "Be a man. Tell the truth" Sam says to him. When his mother gets back she confirms it was his sister who did it. Sam never apologized. For years I cherished this is a story of injustice.
When Gif wrote down the story he realized the question was, Why had his father become so angry over an egg. "I started asking very different questions.
SAM: that did happen, but 50 years later we were still choking on that damned egg. Talk about mythological. Sam explained about his childhood and his anger.
Gif: there was this handful of negative stories, like a cork in a bottle and none of the stories could come up. The egg was choking". finally, when we coughed that egg up and got it out of our throats, all this other (good) stuff) came out.
Sam: after I had a fall, in Iran, Gifford said to me, the statute of limitations had run out and he forgave me-- and I had to tell stories--
There's a lot of humor an irony in this book.
Gif: There was final step at the end of writing the book, it was a discovery, and I went into my son's room one morning. I walk in, he's playing a video game. He drops the controller, gives me a hug and tells me "Dad you're the greatest." And that will light me up every time.
And I realized I never gave that to my father.
He had the power and I had been the victim and I had never given him the love. I had to ask him for forgiveness. IT was a vicious sort
Rob: reminds me of Paulo Freire's idea that Oppressed and Oppressors are both victims but only the oppressed can free them.
Sam: It was based on love
Gif: He was never able to admit how my scorn and sarcasm had hurt him. And that was a big surprise.
Rob: Let's talk about the book's title. Prodigal Father, Wayward son.
What does Prodigal mean to you, is it related to Jesus's parable of the prodigal son, and if so, how?
And what is a prodigal father? How were you one?
Sam: usually we say prodigal son-- and I knew it someone would say no, no, no it was the son who left and ran off. But no, it was I who ran off, with a woman"
Gif: and we had trouble with "wayward" It really should have been a**hole.
Rob: the parable gives a message.
Samall that hostility was drained off. During the writing of the book we talked an average of three hours a day. Now we talk just about every day.
GifAs we were writing this book, nothing changed and everything changed. Those mythological stories are still there and the pain is still there. None of that goes away, ever. But what is totally different, that was black and white and now we have color.
Rob: as a summary. men have a three or four stories that become lenses that shape their relationships with their fathers
Rob: So what did you do to deal with that.
Sam: You have to make the unconscious conscious. You tell the story, and in telling the story you take away the power of keeping that memory repressed.
Gif; Do it consciously, " do it in the sacred way. And it wasn't really that I told the story, but he really listened. So many things in our lives you just have to pay attention.
Rob: So how did you know that he really listened?
Gif" you can tell
Sam: It's like making love you know when they're faking.
Gif. we wrote them down and he read them and then we talked about them. In addition to being storytelling animals we are conversational animals. When I told him the stories he responded to me in ways that made me feel he heard my feelings.
Gif: I said, what the hell were you doing screaming at a five year old all the time.
Sam. When somebody is not listening to you they are ready with their answer before you even finish your question. if you are really listening there's going to be a silence-- you try to feel their way into their reality. " if you to words to words, that's an argument. Arguments, you never lose the myth.
I asked a question from my deepest pain and he answered from his.
Sam: in fire in the belly I do a really good job of cultural analysis of males and manhood. But in Prodigal Father, Wayward Son, it's a very vulnerable book.
Rob: this book was published by a publisher that specializes in story
Gif: it's a roadmap to reconciliation-- it shows not tells.
Sam. It doesn't require a PhD.
Gif: all it requires is to tell stories
Sam It requires the desire to do it.
Gif We stumbled on this almost by accident. Just start telling the stories. Tell and listen to the stories.
Sam: Go from Dad where were you.
Rob: Sam, you said "My job was to shape up my son into being a man." What does that mean.
Sam: he's got to be rough and tough and not supposed to be crying and never complain
Gif: And do whatever you say.
Sam: This is what good men did in the 1950s. We would never tell our stories or any weakness. it was shootout at the OK corral.
Rob: what does it mean now to be a man
Sam-- the real essence of manhood is to man up to the crying needs of your time. I don't think going interior is sufficient now. It's not the warrior image, it's the husband image, the who who is fierce in caring. Warriior training is the metaphor that got us in trouble-- and I do that in fire in the belly.
Gif: on a more person level I have a similar answer. when i was a kid my father couldn't get me to do anything. Everything was a fight. story about how his 9 far old son offered to help clean up sewage. What was different? From a very early age I had tremendous respect for him. Somehow he and I were on the same team and the ability to see him as a person, not as an extension of me.
Sam: If you want a four word summarizing the new manhood.
How can I help. The old one was how can I conquer.
Gif: When I was a kid, kids were treated with the view of original sin.
My wife and I started with the idea of original perfection.
Rob: Sounds like positive psychology to me.
Sam: what if in the national debate, politicians asked, How Can I Help.
Gif; ongoing negative reinforcement loop. I was a dick to him and he was a dick to me.
Somehow with my son we got into a positive reinforcement loop.
In terms of positive psychology, it's the question of how you encourage each other. The key is as my dad says, "how do you help
Rob: and you said, "I couldn't write a book about fathers and daughters. There wasn't enough conflict." Did the conflict produce some positive outcomes? Gifford? Sam?
Sam: Al of the closeness came out of the conflict and dealing with the conflict. With my daughters it never occurred to me to train them how to be women
Gif: and they had you wrapped around their fingers.
Rob: I was hoping that would take us into a conversation about conflict and where that takes.
Dealing conflict creatively means you have to step out of the blame game. If I could teach the culture the meaning of the word metanoia my work would be done. The culture was paranoia
Metanoia means I'm guilty too, and when you do that confession and". is what evolves.
Gif; some of the positive aspects of the conflict I had with my dad is it led us to a level of honesty with ourselves and each other that would have been very hard. And sometimes it i s only conflict that will lead us to that level of honesty. I came to Buddhism after 15 years of meditation, because of back pain. i wouldn't have become a meditator without this tremendous back pain. And I don't
Sam: German philosopher: "Every real conversation is a matter of loving combat" Karl Jaspers
Facebook page Prodigal father
Rob: Bottom-up thoughts?
Sam: most therapy is top down. tell me your story.
Gif because all
Gif: it's a simple process. The magic is in the telling of the story" and the listening.
Sam: The bottom-line is men tell the truth. " I don't want men who have lumberjack aspirations I want men who tell the truth about their world. The most manly thing you can do is tell the truth.
"The world is too dangerous to keep lying.
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