Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Live! Beta...

Hey all,

At this point I've introduced this blog to my profile info for social networking. If you're here, consider yourself part of the Blessed Paradox Beta, I would appreciate any comments you feel like making, as well as any feedback on the blog itself (comment on this post). Planning on taking it full live (telling people about it and linking to posts) in a few weeks.

For now, you're the lucky few who got in before it got popular. Thanks for your interest and stay thinky.


A Few Good Men: Where did They Go?

An extension to thoughts originally published as part of online social psychology discussion on gender roles.
In my opinion, it is unfortunate that gender roles have been so removed from our society. Equality is one thing, the sentiment that "we're the same" is ludicrous. There are significant differences between the sexes, and it's important to recognize and account for those differences, especially in early education. Little boys are significantly more likely to be medicated for Attention deficit, largely because teachers expect them (at 5 years old!) to sit still and pay attention to academic work, a task they are usually not developmentally prepared for until much later in life, whereas little girls are equipped to perform in that environment. The fruit of that is starting to show, in that men are underrepresented in nearly every measure of academic success (especially in higher learning), and their number is decreasing precipitously as the years go on. 

There have been many excellent books written on the "death of men," and how men getting into their 20's and 30's are still uninitiated, lazy, whiny, and unprepared for life. I'm not prepared to put any sort of cause and effect together with the women's movement. That's an argument that everyone loses. But I am prepared to say that what this culture defines as "masculine" and what is required of men to create a healthy, productive society are drastically different. The "care-free, happy, fun-loving, laid back" guy is the ideal masculine of this culture, that image is counter to productivity, serious thought, and a healthy character. If that wasn't enough, that care free image is unsustainable! If the "Average American Male" is anything he's, restless, discontented, frustrated, and feels inadequate, unprepared, as though he missed something important that he needs to live life. Or if he's good at denial, he's confident, cocky and defensive about being inadequate, restless and discontent. Obviously there are men who feel differently, and generalization is the best way to get a lot of people angry. If you are man and an exception to the rule, pay close attention to the next part, this generation needs a few good men.

A Possible Solution

The cause of this dearth of manhood aside, the books that I've read (supported by experience) suggest that the answer is two-fold. Initiation, the passing on of masculine values, is part of that answer. For thousands of years boys were made to go through rites of passage and apprenticeships, where they learned what it meant to be a man from men. It's the carpenter's son learning to plane a board, the hunter's son, following along, learning the art of silent patience, most importantly it is the son watching his father live for what he believes. This is more than the passing on of skills, it is showing a boy what it means to provide, how to lead, and what is most important in life. Sadly, it's an experience that a massive majority of men do not have today, with absentee, or emotionless fathers, or worse. The other half of this solution is intimate friendships with other men. The fact that men who just read that thought to themselves "That sounds gay" is support of the fact that our culture has trained us to think that masculine bonds are in some way taboo. For thousands of years men worked together and shared their lives and livelihoods in the fields, forests, wildernesses and battles of the world bound by masculine, "closer than a brother" love. 

The cause is not hopeless for uninitiated men, however. Initiation can happen at any age, if the man is willing to humble himself and learn. This is where the men who have been initiated come in. Work to create mentor relationships, and intimate friendships with men, and you will do much to recover the lost (or perhaps forbidden) masculine spirit the world needs so desperately. 

In relationships:
Unfortunately many men find the answer to that missing piece in how they relate to women. Either finding a woman to "mommy" them, enabling their lazy, uninitiated, lifestyle (essentially redefining the male role to a Homer Simpson-esque ineptitude) or finding a woman that they can rescue, and getting their affirmation from being that woman's knight in shining armour, which maintains their traditional role, but focuses that mans strength on so narrow a goal that it is sure to implode. If the end of the journey is "rescuing the princess," then she's probably going to be clingy and codependent. If she's all you ever wanted chances are you will be everything to her too, not a healthy situation. 

If, however a man and woman are both striving for something bigger than the perfect relationship, then the time they spend together can be focused outward on whatever that something is. Whether it's a spiritual  journey, a cause, or even a career. If you're both passionate about the same thing (not each other), then the relationship won't have to keep folding in on itself till it implodes.

Social policy:

I do believe that that men and women, individually or in relationships, can find happiness outside of traditional gender roles. If Individual happiness is the highest thing we can strive for, (and it is not an ignoble goal to find and spread happiness), by all means men and women may live as they please. I would encourage, in social policy, the most possible freedom to search for happiness in this life. I do not believe that will solve any of the problems we face today concerning gender roles, in fact it will complicate them tenfold. 
It has been said that removing gender roles is not the best path to equality. I would add to that, removing gender roles (paired with unconditional acceptance of self-defined gender) is not the best path to anywhere. It is, however a comfortable path that anyone can walk without too much trouble.
Personally, I believe that there is intentionality in gender roles. Not necessarily the silly "boys, blue, trucks" gender roles, or even the "man makes the money, woman is in the home" gender roles. The secondary sex characteristics, what makes a man a man, are particularly suited for the role he was intended to live. The head and spiritual leader of the home.

For more information on this topic, I recommend reading (in no particular order) Iron John (Robert Bly), Boys Adrift (Leonard Sax) or Wild at Heart (John Eldridge).