Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Men from boys

Okay, time for a little "up by the boot straps"

I have noticed and increasing amount of "motivational posts" in social media of late.  Quaint though thy are, I am generally very underwhelmed by them. Why? I hear you ask... I'll tell you why... because... this would be a very short post if I didn't...

Digressed, sorry.

Along side these remarkably surface level wallpaper worthy pieces of claptrap, I notice there is a worrying uptick in the amount of "can't adult" memes as well.  That worries me... can't adult?  Who can't adult? Why can't you adult? What does it mean to adult?  Are TRIX really for kids?

*forcefully pulls brain back on topic*

There is a pervasive thought process that says that we are all supposed to be "not good" at being an adult. I have no idea where this came form.  When I was young, my greatest hope was to become a

stable, productive,  and competent adult.  To that end I focused hard on what it was to be a man.  How did men think?  How did they act?  What would I have to do to be considered a man?

Though my musings I came to the realization that being a man was a state of mind, not a state of acting.  Or, as it would seem, acting like a man would lead me to being a man.

Lose you yet?  I hope not, we're just getting started.

So, the idea of "how does a man act", settled heavy on my pubescent mind.  I realized that I had to pick a way that I wanted to be a man.  I wanted to be powerful, yet gentle.  Loving, yet stoic.  Aggressive, yet gentle.  I thought long and hard about these points.  Certainly there had been generations of men that had done this, surely I could figure out how to do it.  So I looked into those men that I thought fulfilled my idea of what manliness was.

Of course through the history of all of mankind there were a great many examples that I could take my cues from.  Modern examples shewed me towards John Wayne,  MLK, Churchill.  All of them wonderful examples of how men should be.   Reaching farther back into time I found Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington,  and Adams.  Again, fantastic examples.

All of these men shared a common theme of their histories.  They were all men that made themselves.  Yes, many of them came from privileged classes that allowed them the ability to be movers and shakers in the world. But quite a few of them cam from obscurity,  and yet will be names that are on the lips of people for at least another hundred years.  So it wasn't their beginnings that made them the men that they were it was their innate ability to keep going.  Never quit.  No matter what they ran into they reached deep down into who they were and pulled themselves, kicking and screaming, to be the men that they knew they had to be.  If not for themselves then for those around them.

They knew innately that they had to be more.

To that end they cultivated the mind. Engaged their hearts. They challenged the prevailing cultural mindset of how men should be. They studied the classics, read the thinking of men long dead, both for what they did right and where's they missed the mark. The meditations of stoically men, like Aurelius. The pragmatism of Aristotle. Morality from Aquinas. Nothing was taboo to these men in their pursuit.

Fast forward to modern times. Young men are discouraged from reading those very same words. They are mocked for being activity concerned with improving their minds, in exchange for improving their emotions. They are taught to feel through a situation, as opposed to think through it. This is deplorable. They are taught to ignore what it is that makes them men, and inhabit a place that discards those base traits in their core. 

It's little wonder that so many men suffer from depression and ennui in such tragic levels. They are told to be better, then are abused for trying to be so. Not for being better off course, but for being the wrong kind of better. 

I have two sons. Sons that I desperately wish to watch grow into impressive men. I worry though, that they are coming up in a world that hats the impressive and celebrates the mediocre. The only way I know to push back is to make myself impressive and unabashedly so. In hopes that they will follow.

If you have sons, out are in position to influence young boys, don't abuse them. Let them know that it is okay to be boys. Instill in then the heart they will need, the courage, and the intellect that has been the calling card of the greatest men.

Don't treat them like young girls. They will resent it, not understand why, and eventually despise you for it.

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