Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Big Impossible

A few nights back I couldn't sleep, so I got out of bed and pulled a book off from the shelf to read until I could fall back asleep. It's title: "Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity," by Dr. Frank Pittman. I'm interested in the subject because I will be periodically working with young men between the ages of 14 and 19 through spring and well into summer on the baseball diamond. At that age I remember the question the took center stage in my mind was: What does it mean to be a man? This quote jumped off the page at me during my fit of sleeplessness.

"Masculinity is an 'artificial state, a challenge to be overcome, a prize to be won by fierce struggle.' So says David Gilmore in "Manhood in the Making," after he examined the ways in which boys become men in various cultures. Gilmore tries to define what it takes to be a man, what the puberty rituals attempt to instill in boys. He says, 'To be a man in most of the societies we have looked at, one must impregnate women, protect dependents from danger, and provision kith and kin...Manhood is a kind of male procreation; its heroic quality lies in its self-direction and discipline, its absolute self-reliance.' Gilmore tells us that the Fox tribe of Iowa considers being a real man 'The Big Impossible.' No man who sets out to achieve total masculinity can ever be man enough.

"Masculinity is supposed to be about protection of the family, but the pursuit of this Big Impossible can lead men to escape domesticity and the power of women. Men can't always do what man's gotta do to "feel like" a man and still do what a man's gotta do to "be" a man."(Pg. xiv)

I also like this quote about how terrifyingly dangerous and terrifyingly important women are to men. I remember reading somewhere that younger men look for the guidance of older men because the older men have been with women longer. They have more experience with the danger and importance of women, in other words.

"Why do men love their masculinity so much? Because men have been trained to sacrifice their lives for their masculinity, and men always know they are far less masculine than they think they should be. Women, though, have the power to give a man his maculinity or take it away, so women become both terrifyingly important and terrifyingly dangerous to men. It's all quite crazy, but this, too, is a part of the 'masculine mystique.'" (Pg. xvi)

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