I hadn’t heard “the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you found out why” until recently, but I can’t get them out of my mind. I learned that they were attributed to Mark Twain. I thought the first day was both obvious and simple: I was born on December 21, 1943. I’ve been thinking about the date a lot lately since I will be 80 this year. My wife, Carlin, will be 85. We’re both dealing with the challenges of health and mortality, as are many of our friends.
The Day I Was Born
Thinking about my birth, I realize that it was more complex than I originally thought: “Congratulations, Mrs. Diamond. You have a healthy baby boy.” My parents had gotten married in 1934 and had been trying to have a baby for some time. Having given up hope, they finally went to a doctor in New York who had developed a new procedure of injecting my father’s sperm into my mother’s womb.
When they found out she was pregnant they were overjoyed, but my mother was terrified she would miscarry and tiptoed down 5th Avenue on her walks to keep the baby firmly attached. They were so sure I was going to be a girl that they had lots of soft dolls and a number of girl’s names ready for me and my arrival with all parts intact, including my little penis, caused some serious confusion.
Being Jewish, they had me circumcised on the 8th day after my birth, and my mother told the story of the unkindest cut causing me to shoot a stream of urine up over my head hitting my father, who had been holding me down while I screamed bloody murder, in the eye. Even then I knew that my foreskin was not only mine and part of me, but had a useful purpose, and I was not a bit happy about its removal.
I still had not been named and they finally settled on John Elliott Diamond, which I shortened to a more manly “Jed” when I went off to college.
The Day I Found Out Why
On November 21, 1969, I held my newborn son, Jemal, in my arms and made a vow that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and do everything I could to create a world where men were fully healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I realized that this was my calling in life, the reason I was born.
My own father had a “nervous breakdown” when I was five years because he felt like a failure as man because he couldn’t earn a living supporting his family at the work he loved. He took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to the state mental hospital in Camarillo, just north of our home in Los Angeles. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, when it would happen to me, and how I could do to keep other families from experiencing the pain our family went through. I wrote about our healing journey in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and offer an on-line course for men and women.
My calling has expanded over the years. Most recently I have invited a number of colleagues who share my passion to improve men’s health to join me for what I call my Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity.
I believe we all come into the world with a life purpose. Here’s how psychologist James Hillman describes it in his book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling.
“For me what is lost in so many lives, and what must be recovered is a sense of personal calling, that there is a reason I am alive. It is the feeling that there is a reason my unique person is here and that there are things I must attend to beyond the daily round and that give the daily round its meaning.”
The Japanese have a name for it. They call it Ikigai, or “purpose for waking up in the morning.” A friend and colleague whose purpose for waking up in the morning connects with men’s health is Shana James.
Shana James and The Moonshot for Mankind
When I reached out to colleagues who I knew were doing great work to help men and their families, I contacted Shana James who had recently written the book, Honest Sex: A Passionate Path to Deepen Connection and Keep Relationships Alive. Her work was featured in my latest book, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity, which will launch to the world later this year.
Here’s what Shana shared about her own calling:
What is your own calling, your ikigai? Why are you here and what is your own unique contribution to the world? I look forward to hearing from you. Drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com. Put “Why I’m here” in the subject line. If you would like to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, I invite you to join us here.