I'm thinking back, now, to my first contact with what is now the ManKind Project in the early 1990s. It was a time of great turmoil in my life, and I was casting about for ways to get back on track; I was aware that there were things I needed to change about myself and the way I was living my life, but had no idea how to go about it. Then, improbably, I signed up for the New Warrior Training Adventure. I say "improbably" because everything about it--especially its name--was calculated to turn me away. A weekend with men? An "adventure"? "Warriors"? Come on, be serious... But I was called, irresistibly, to sign up anyway.
It proved to be the most intense, most difficult, most challenging weekend of my life--and it was, indeed, life-changing. Joe Cryns was a part of it, as a staff man. So was Bob Peterson, who wrote that tribute. So were a handful of other men, whose unrelenting demand for an integrity that matched their own both terrified and challenged me. I learned that to be responsible for my life, I would need to be accountable to both myself and others, and that the prevarications and denials that I had been using to protect myself against the world were no longer good enough. I learned, too, that my words and actions, both, are more authentic and more powerful when guided by a direction guided by an inner sense of purpose, a mission. What I learned at that weekend has guided my footsteps every since.
I did not know Joe Cryns outside those few weekends when we coincided as staff members, following that initial training. I knew nothing of his personal life. But his presence at the weekends was the model of the kind integrity that spares no one, least of all himself. For the first few trainings at which I served on staff, I quite honestly feared such men, intimidated by what appeared to be their self-assurance and their strength. It was, however, through working alongside such men that I came to value and trust my own integrity. Hence my gratitude to Joe, my sense of great sadness on learning of his death at the still youthful age of fifty-four, and my respect for his commitment to the service of his fellow man. He brought something of great value into the world, and had the generosity to share it with those who, like myself, needed the model of what it meant to draw upon both the strength and the vulnerability of an authentic man.