6 thoughts on “What is a Man…

  1. Ummm…. Trick question? “A Man,” or “Typical American Male,” or “normal,” I’d say. Or at least, what *should* be normal.

    It seems to me that empathy / emotional stability / understanding is a very hard thing to teach well. Facts, procedures, skills, etc., are relatively easy. The fuzzy stuff is harder, and needs constant shepherding and prodding to develop right. Even then, in spite of it all, some folks are just not wired right, and other turn out just fine in spite of all the odds stacked against them. And, of course, we are imperfect teachers, ourselves. So, given that, the best we can do is… well, the best we can do. Reading good stories together, and talking about them. Taking time with them when they are young, and apologizing to them when you are wrong, and letting them fail at times, and pushing them when they need it, and realizing that you, too, are not perfect. I think making sure they have several strong male role models in their lives (dads, uncles, cousins, close neighbors and friends, etc) to help give them an idea what’s expected, and model how it’s done – not perfectly, but with humility, hard work, thoughtfulness, and on occasions, failure and retrenchment.

    I think it’s vital to teach ALL children that with rights, privileges, freedom, and authority come responsibilities, duties, consequences, and hard choices; but, that is not a good thing or a bad thing, simply a *necessary* thing. And, one of the biggest differences between a child and a fully-functional and self-reliant adult is that they recognize, understand, and accept this fact, and do their best to make the most of it. Thus, they need have not only a solid grounding in practical skills and knowledge, but also some sort of philosophical grounding, even if incomplete.

    I think each of us has our own unique interest and motivations. Many people (most?) are not interested in “ideas” or even events – they are interested in people, like the common gossip of old. They are lazy, either physically or intellectually, or both, and thinking about ideas, or keeping track of events, is boring / uninteresting / unsettling. Those sorts still needs a good philosophy to get along and contribute to society, though, but inculcating it will be difficult, and I think will largely happen by osmosis, as it were. Even if it not a formal understanding of logic, rights and responsibilities, they can have a child-like grasp (not childish, but child-like) of basic right-and-wrong, what-works-and-what-doesn’t, action-and-consequence, be-good-to-be-treated-good sorts of philosophy. And that is something that is actively NOT taught in schools, where it is much more a wrote “follow-the-rules-because-that’s-the-rule” mentality, simply because it’s *easy*. So, that must be done at home.

    For those that are REALLY resistant to philosophy, and want rules, teach the 10 commandments. They are really simple, and it’s hard to find a basic set of rules that WORK at setting up a basic, functional, productive society. If you are not a religious person, substitute “don’t let others impose other rules that don’t work as well as this list” in place of “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Me? I’m not a religious sort, but I really can’t find much to object to WRT not stealing, coveting, murdering, or lying, working hard AND taking a break from time to time, keeping my temper, honoring my parents, etc… If you follow them, you’ll not likely be motivated by fear, anger, or lust, because you’ll most likely have self-respect, self-control, and the respect of your community.

    It would be nice if our society had a really good “coming of age challenge,” like walking the Pacific crest trail for at least 500 miles, or sail solo to HI, or enlist for two years, or some other REAL challenge, so that a guy could look at it and say “WOW! *I* did that! Cool.” Other people could be honestly impressed, too. Some guys can look back to their staring on the HS football team – but not everyone can BE on the football team, let alone star in it – so we need to find some other outlets for their energy, skills, enthusiasm, brains, and ignorance of what they can’t do. Scouting can help, but not everyone is into that. Writing can help, but same thing. Everyone needs a bespoke challenge for them to prove, both to themselves and to the world, that they are “worthy” of being called a man. No, make that, “a MAN.”

    Ideas, anyone?

  2. Another thought occurred to me last night at o-dark-thirty…. The Mormon idea of spending a year or two on missionary work is interesting. It is something that is physically easy to do (walk and talk), but emotionally challenging (go into unfamiliar places, meet new people, talk about potentially uncomfortable things, in a setting not of your choice, getting a lot of rejection, etc). Yes, there are numerous rules the missionaries must follow, and lots of institutional and structural support, and I’m not a great fan of the Mormon church (or ANY church) in general, (though Mormons tend to be fairly practical in a lot of ways) but from a purely cognitive /psychological development perspective, it’s a very intriguing practice that might well be studied and learned from. (Maybe spending time spreading the “gospel” of John Moses Browning would be good 🙂

    Any Mormons want to chip in their thoughts on how such an experience could be positively leveraged into wider society?

  3. Darned near perfect. Everyone is that way to some extent–the best men can, at least sometimes, subvert that tendency and do the opposite for the sake of their principles. When they do so, they often find themselves scorned for it by lesser men.

  4. Darned near perfect. Everyone is that way to some extent–the best men can, at least sometimes, subvert that tendency and do the opposite for the sake of their principles. When they do so, they often find themselves scorned for it by lesser men.

  5. Rolf,

    It’s not very impressive when everyone does it. People only give that kind of respect to those who do what few others can. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big thing, either–it could be as simple as being a good husband and a devoted father.

    Therein lies also the trap of living one’s life for the sake of the respect and admiration of other people. Self-respect is much more elusive.

  6. I want to make the distinction between physical courage and moral courage. Some have the plenty of the former but very little of the latter. Monkeys can have the former. That doesn’t make them men.

    The short answer to the question is; A saint.

    Too many of us parents use fear or anger, intimidation, etc. to control our kids, and it gets passed from generation to generation. To some, “being strong” means being a bully of some sort, but that is weakness, and the bullied of today become the bullies of tomorrow. A weak spouse who wants to see the other spouse “be strong” will prompt the other to bully the kids. I’m realizing some of these things somewhat late in life.

    Rolf; How about; “regonise that there is one source of the initiation of existence and of life, and that there is no other” I think it works no matter the perspective from which look at it.

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