Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones taught us a lot. It taught us that zombie polar bears are a thing, Gendry is apparently one athletic dude, and that Jon, Jorah, The Hound, and the rest of the crew have turned into an Avengers-esque team of butt kickers.
But there was a deeper lesson and idea in that episode. The conversations between Jon and his ragtag group of White Walker warriors, and Gendry and his mission to run back to Eastwatch to tell Daenerys that they were toast without the help of a few fire-breathing dragons – It showed a band of brothers who were all in on their mission, and had only each other to rely on. It showed a group of guys experiencing their own rites of passage, and the importance of going through them together.
In our lives, rites of passage serve an important purpose, primarily to help us establish our roles and identity, and give us a sense of purpose. These traditions and passages stretch far back throughout history and across cultures, from vision quests to tribe initiations, and are still ever-present in our world today. Look at the various rites of passage we experience or witness in our society, and may not even consciously recognize as “rite of passage” – The Jewish tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in which a young Jewish man or woman upon turning 13 goes through a journey, transition, and celebration as they are formally recognized as adults. What about 21st birthdays? Typically marked with a huge celebration as one can legally drink and is considered to be a true adult. The list goes on, from engagement and marriage, to having your first child, graduating from high school and college, buying your first home, and even retirement. Or even battling a slew of wights and zombie polar bears. Each and every rite of passage marks the movement from one role and location within your life to another, newer part of your life. So why are these passages so important to be aware of and recognize?
The simple answer is, because they mark our progress as we grow, evolve, and move forward on our own individual paths through life. We must always be learning, improving, and becoming better versions of ourselves. Without mile markers along the way, we have no gauge to use as a measure of where we are in our lives from a societal standpoint in relation to where we are from a personal standpoint. Look at it like this; do you want to hang out with a 30 year old who still thinks and acts like he’s 18? No. Because as we grow and mature, so do our tastes, our values, our wisdom, and our character, and we seek to find others who are in the same plane as we are.
Rites of passage, whether the biggies or the minor ones, should be recognized and evaluated. They are signifiers that we are entering new territories, and it gives us a chance for self-reflection and self-evaluation. If you are approaching 30 and audit your lifestyle only to find that you haven’t grown or progressed much since your 21st birthday party, you’ll gain instant perspective on where you stand in your journey toward becoming the most legendary version of yourself, and it can help you map out what needs to change to get you where you want to be. A lot of times, we can get sidetracked in life and lose track of our own timelines and growth. And while “going with the flow” and letting life happen are beautiful and important approaches to take, we must also be cognizant of areas of our lives that we can control, and be present and aware of who we are and where we want to work toward going.
And while sometimes we have to deal with these moments alone, there is something to be said for hunkering down and getting through them with the help of your community. We’ve even discussed this in our article The Importance of Having a Tribe and as we pointed out, the support given by a community of like-minded and collectively similar individuals is massively important to your own success and happiness. When times get tough, our own mental and spiritual fortitude can only go so far before we need to lean on others for a bit of moral support. With a tight-knit community, you have somewhere to turn for support, advice, words of encouragement, or even just a place to be embraced by others who have been in your position before and understand what you’re feeling.
Game of Thrones does a masterful job of weaving real world themes and morals into its fantasy storylines, and the band of brothers we have in Jon, Gendry, Jorah, The Hound, and Tormund are proving to be chock full of sage wisdom and lessons that we as men can learn from.
Rites of passage are part of who we are as men. So don’t be afraid to audit yourself from time to time, and don’t be afraid to seek out new and fulfilling rites of passage.