Jan 25 2016

Unmasked by Paul Kachoris, MD: A Book Review

Published by at 6:21 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy

I first met Paul Kachoris at a men’s retreat about 1990-91 where he was on the leadership team. It was one of those “I have no idea what I am getting into here type of experiences” which served as my first venture into the direction of the “within”, of the 7 directions, often described as the most important.

Paul was a huge part of my nearly 2 decades of involvement in men’s programs and I am grateful for his gifts. I remember vividly him approaching me as I was getting into my car to leave that first retreat and him telling me he was Kevin’s friend and a writer. He has always been a writer.

This book of poetry exemplifies the lyrical way he connects words to the human spirit. Reading this book, I learned he has been writing poetry for many, many years. I recognized some of his poems’ themes, like the chapel and sculpting out of thin air, as potentially related to his work on men’s retreats. I especially took note of the shadow themes, like in the poem, Ambush, (pps. 92-93) where he explores the inevitability of screwing ourselves over because we lack awareness and self-knowledge.

However, the depth and breadth of his themes relating to his own psyche, relationships with his family, and the disconnect/connect with his family’s homeland in Greece suggested more of Paul’s deeply empathic abilities. I’ve wondered to myself and in some of my own writing how his legacy might be expanded should he connect in some way with the Warrior weekend’s international efforts. He has been a big fish in a small pond for too long. We know fish too big are targeted.

The founders of the program to which Paul has been devoted (one is deceased) were too jealous of his stature and deep masculine energy. They knew how to co-opt and unsex men who they saw getting close to their secrets and illusionary beliefs about their own grandeur, their shadow, as Paul would say. They were the masters of pseudo-mutuality creating a world where everyone acted like they loved each other by denying and avoiding any conflict. In the shadows, they were skillful at creating chaos, keeping others off kilter, ensuring they would be at the center of power, their fingerprints everywhere.

When I had influence, I ensured Paul would be on the marketing video for the organization back in 2004 and then in 2007, built the concept of the organization’s new program committee around Paul as the Chairperson. I knew he was the one to bring some clarity, intellect and humanity to this key element of an organization struggling to evolve. Paul had so much more integrity, wholeness and warmth than the others. These were his strengths, not wasted, but still so much more to give.

His personality archetype may be described by others as more Magician because of his poetry. I know him and see him more in the Warrior/King archetype. Paul even explores the theme of his kingship in one of his poems. He is more King than Magician in my eyes. Magicians stand alone and use their magic in isolation. Warrior/Kings use their strength and wisdom to unite others and fight the good fight. There are so many men who need help and the international men’s network offers men like Paul a pathway.

There was so, so much competition and unresolved conflict within the men’s program where Paul worked and works still, his greatness has been constrained. The Warrior weekend would have embraced his gifts and the leadership program would have challenged him and chiseled his spiritual and intellectual muscle. I know the Warriors would have welcomed him doing both programs and what a model that would have been of inclusion in the men’s work world!

Like me and the rest of us, Paul is not perfect, but he is perfectly human and the world is better for him. At a significant time, he wrote to me and I appreciated it.

The poem that really spoke to me from this book was “On a Train With No Windows” (p142). I want to cite the first several lines.

Paul writes:

Boarded up in my windowless train
on a one way ticket to Somewhere.
Just followed the crowd;
Jumped aboard when young, with baggage in tow.
Not asking: “Where am I going?”

Clickety clack
clickety clack
clickety clack.

Down the one-way track
to some imagined, pre-ordained destination.
-an oasis waiting.

This is a beautiful poem evoking feelings of wonderment, journey, and promise. It reminded me of my favorite song, “People Get Ready” written by Curtis Mayfield, a song in the liberation theology common in the African American community. Unable to speak truth to power for fear of being lynched, castrated, tortured, African Americans used religious language to express their desire for freedom, their salvation.

Like Paul, Mayfield writes,

“People get ready
There’ a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board

All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord.”

The clickety-clack of the train wheels on the rails to freedom, the “oasis waiting.”

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