Category Archives: Culture

Men, Masculinity, and Manhood

Hello there! Today gender issues have been on my mind. I get the impression that there are a lot of men that are not sure who they are. I want to take this week’s post and talk about what I am seeing with men today. I am going to keep it clean, but I do not want to be so clean as to sanitize my truth. There are some difficult things about gender for me as I am sure there are things about gender for everyone. I am also curious to know what your thoughts and feelings are regarding men. The range of perspectives on the male gender run as deep and wide as the oceans.  If you have a thought please share it.

Men are all sorts of things in this world, but the thing I do not like seeing in a good deal of men is the confusion about what to be. If a man decides to cry is he less? Can a man let another man hold him and be ok with intimate nonsexual touch? Do men realize how healthy that is, and how thirsty they really are for male intimacy? These questions arouse in me a desire to project what I think is true for men.

When I think of what a man should be many things get stirred up. I know several types of men in my life, yet that does not run the whole gamut of the types of men that there are out there. Does strong, tender, and intelligent really encapsulate all that a man should be? I should hope not. What one dimensional socials lives we would all have!

The problem I am having with putting men into a few boxes is that most men do not fit all the way into them. A man with a sensitive heart and an artistic leaning would not identify with a definition of a man that said they needed to be stoic, and therefore think he might not be a “man”. That is unless he was of strong character enough to say “to hell with that!” It appears the reason I am having a tough time figuring out what to do with masculinity in my life is because my definition is so narrow.

The truth that I am seeing tells me men are all sorts of things, and they need every last part of themselves. Sometimes men need to be strong, draw lines in the sand, and say “ENOUGH!” Other times men need to hold new born babies, hold them gently, and smile into their faces like a great big welcome into the world. And there are all kinds of things in between.

I think all men are inherently good. A friend of mine once told me that they would not mind being friends with any healthy adult male. They said that if they were adult and healthy they probably would have a lot to offer no matter who they are. I reflected on this and determined this was the truth. Men are made for relationship, and to be healthy would mean the ability to be in a relationship that was pleasing and edifying to the other. We are not here to be difficult for each other or to hurt each other. That is just not how it works. When it gets to a point of pain chances are something is not working and needs to be addressed.

I also think culture tears the image of masculinity to pieces.  I know great men out there worthy of being honored, written about, and held high as examples. An overwhelming majority of these honorable men do not look like a sit com father or a Spartan. I do not get to see enough good male representation in media. The gender engendering that I see for both men and women is sad. I think most American men think they should be football players, and not talk about their feelings because men are not supposed to have them. This does not seem to be a very good picture for men at all. The intricate machinery inside a man’s heart is inspired and wonderful.

What I think men need is for other older men to tell younger men that they are in fact good men. Young men need to know they pass the inspection, and can now think of themselves as real men. I have seen men be affirmed like this, and the ways that their lives grew afterward were astounding. So men affirm each other! If you are an older man please keep an eye out for the young man who needs your words. A society with men that do not know who they are is a society that is robbed of the goodness of true adult manhood. And in the void adult boys run around making a mess of things waiting for mom, and boy will she be angry as she ought to be!

The last thing I want to say is that I want to have room in my life for all different kinds of men. I want to love and respect the athlete and the artist. I want to know the energetic and the calm and slow. Men are and can be so many different, fantastic, wonderful things. I celebrate that with this post.

The Writer

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Fast and Furious

First off I want to say hello to the new followers of my blog! Welcome! I am glad you resonated so far. Be sure to read the “Why am I Writing This” section to get an idea of what this blog is about. I will be going to a lot of places, and I am glad to have you along for the trip.

And now to the post…

Fast and furiously working for results we forget it is the slow and steady that live longer and are more satisfied with life. For the most part I see people are becoming more reliant on higher frequency forms of gratification. I want to take a moment and consider the implications.

No doubt many good things have been botched because there is a quarterly report that needs to be released and stake holders are demanding results. The new Apple IOs map is a likely example of fast paced culture. I read in the BBC technology section that Scott Forstall the senior manager in charge of the project just announced he will leave after nearly 15 years of service. That is business as they say, but it is not how life works.

Legislation is not developed with a long view. The result is disheartening. Taxpayers want a refund check now, and will cross the bridges of insolvency when we get there.  The treasury issues debt in a way that gives a new meaning American express. The Congressional Budget Office releases reports that summarize in a few words, “This cannot last forever”. President Barack Obama rightfully points to the eight years prior to his term as part of the reason for the awful state we are in. Yet, there is no long term plan in the wings to explain how much more we will need to pay and what we are going to live without. House republicans want to quickly withdraw government spending from the economy in the middle of a meager recovery because their constituencies want it and want it now. The system simply does not support the long view. This is also not how life works.

The housing bubble is another example where expediency trumped wisdom. I am not going to get into the numbers unless you want me to; however, it is fair to say the effects of the collapse of the U.S. housing market were felt worldwide. The desire to live fast destroyed more than what was created. I can think of other examples in the macroeconomic and political spheres, but this horse was dead before the gate opened.

At this point it is easy to look at the disarray and feel lost. There is anxiety at play in the way the world operates. As an anecdote, observe the amount of antidepressant medications that are prescribed in America. I read 10-11% of Americans use the medication, and that is just a third of those who exhibit symptoms of major depression(1).  I think this anxiety is what drives the need for now rather than deferment for a better future.

I have some suggestions to put on the table, but I am out of time for this week. I am reluctant to do a two part post, but I want to give this time and space it needs. I feel this is a very important observation that deserves careful exploration. Please be patient.  In the mean time taste the irony.

The Writer

(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db76.htm

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Friend or Foe?

I received a call from an old friend tonight as I was busy mulling over topics for this post. I have not heard from him in months. There is a criminal investigation against him for having sexual contact with a minor. So when he called I picked up the phone. His entire life has been shattered. His community has collapsed around him. He has grown clinically depressed, and is struggling to cope with realities of his shame. I was his friend before I knew he lusted after pubescent boys. I will continue to be a supportive person in his life now.

Personally, I find the whole situation to be surreal. I am providing support to a sex offender. The media stance has largely been to name and shame, spit on, and condemn known sexual predators. It makes sense. Adults that sexually engage minors harm the weakest of us in such terrible ways. I am being a friend to one of society’s most reviled people.  Maybe I am wrong for not hating him. Is lack of hate the same as condoning? I don’t think so.

It is fair to say that I want to keep my distance from him.

What my friend did was very wrong. A child was deeply wounded. There will be an incredible amount of healing that needs to be done, and even then he will not be able to get back on the same tangent his life was on previously. I have adult friends that struggle with the realities of being abused. The wreckage from their experiences looks like general Sherman’s total war strategy.

I still feel compassion for my friend.

He is a broken human being, which is not entirely different from me in many ways. I lust. I hurt people by my own desires. My failings have been stark, and I am prone to failure as much as he is. My failings are different.  I feel lucky to not struggle with hebephilic urges, but I struggle with things that can be devastating.

My friend had a tremendous amount to self denial that allowed him to do what he did. When the truth came to light he could not believe what he just done. It was as if he was looking at himself for the first time. In some respects he was. People do not set out to do such things. He is getting help now and is celebrating a lengthy period of sobriety from using sex of any kind. I am glad for that. In fact I am thrilled he is waking up. He is a human being becoming more human.

The Writer

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Thinking of Youth

Young adults have fewer opportunities today than people of the same age group in the recent past.  What I mean by opportunities I cannot rightly say. I could mean more access to jobs, and it would be fair to say there are fewer opportunities based on this. Maybe it could simply mean the opportunity to grow up in a loving and healthy home. The divorce rate and other choice metrics can corroborate this conclusion. It is hard to precisely define the meaning of this opportunity and how there is less of it for younger people, but what I do know is that in the U.S., Middle East, and in Europe (Sorry China you are not allowed) a large contingency of the discontent is coming from the younger crowds. Clearly something is bothering our young adults. It makes me think about them; the younger additions to society.

At first I wonder if they are courageous, bold, and good hearted. I wonder if they have the love and support of parents, elders, mentors that will encourage them to be strong and confident in today’s world. Then I think what generation was ever defined by such qualities before; however, the thought of the generations that suffered World War I and II quickly squashes my cynicism. Regardless, the truth maybe that there really hasn’t been a “perfect batch”. Each wave must respond as best they can to the situation they find themselves in.

What I am curious about is how the present set of circumstances will shape the young adults who must fight to make a place for themselves. It appears the prizes are getting fewer and smaller. For some the competition will become tougher and more consequential with each passing year. On this aspect I can sympathize with the Occupy Movement if only it were more clear that lack of opportunity was the conscious source of their discontent. I am sure it is a big part of it. If I had a clear shot at a future doing something I dreamed of I would not be so willing to spend my days voicing my irritation throughout a given urban area while risking pepper spray and arrest. Even so I get why it is being done at least in part.

Young people are also becoming a less potent voice in society as the percentage of people older than those 30 and below increase. Increasing life expectancies will have that effect. The real mean household income for the youngest of us has fallen to the lowest levels since the mid 90s. Unemployment in the same age range is still in the stratosphere, while job openings need to increase to peaks not yet seen to bring the number of young adults that are on the sidelines to a land resembling opportunity. Yes it can be said that there are fewer opportunities. At least fewer out-of-the-box opportunities. Craftiness and shrewdness will no doubt be a mark of the successful in this period more than ever.

I am not entirely convinced the picture is as desperate as this Grapes of Wrath scenario implies, but  it will be tough for many more than what societies have experienced since perhaps the Great Depression. The added pressure can have a sharpening effect. You know – that which does not kill us. Even so the energy that a young adult is spending on survival is energy being drawn from actual thriving. Hardship can engender gratitude for what no longer is as much as it can engender resentment and bitterness for what might have been. A well examined life will know this truth well.

The Writer

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