My good friend is a Samoan chief. The two of us, and several other friends, were discussing what manhood means in modern society. How the standard roles don’t really apply, how modern media mixes everything up, how we don’t give our sons a clear path anymore (and how we’ve had to find our own path).
My friend returned to Samoa a few years ago and got the traditional tattoo. It’s a monster, normally taking several weeks. Even though he lives off-island, he takes his duties seriously, and I asked him why he got the tattoo.
“What it means,” he said, “is that your life belongs to your family and your village. When you’re a kid, when you’re a young man, you do for yourself. But at some point you commit your life to others.”
He and his wife gave us this Samoan war club (a Pouvai) as an early boat-warming gift. It reminds us of them and their friendship and their love, but it also reminds me to commit my life to my “tribe.” I see that as my job on this journey – what do I owe, and how can I repay that debt? It’s not an easy question to answer.