Category Archives: Philosophy

“Modern Man” vs. “Real Man”

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  We castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful.”
– C.S. Lewis

About a year or so ago, the New York Times published an article online which attempted to define the “Modern Man”.

I thought it interesting, if only as a commentary on how our definition of manliness has changed over the last couple of generations.  I thought I’d give a response to each of their twenty-seven points… counterpoints which contrast the difference between the “Modern Man” and what I consider to be real manliness:

  1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.
    A real man understands that his wife loves buying shoes and it’s the process of selecting them which brings her joy more than it is the actual purchasing of them.  He also understands that his wife knows far more about this sort of thing than he ever will, so while he will occasionally make a gift of a pair of shoes he thinks she’ll really like, he makes sure to get a gift receipt.
  2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.
    A real man knows his faith is shaken in times like this and he has at least one person in whom he will confide, and the most important is his wife.  He understands, if only instinctively, that if she believes in him he can face almost anything.  He will avoid confiding in her if he thinks it will protect her, and he’ll probably be wrong.
  3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.
    A real man has at least some manners, so he doesn’t eat so loudly that it matters.
  4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.
    A real man knows how to trim and cook a steak.  If at a restaurant, he’ll send it back if it’s not done properly because if he’s going to spend that much money on a meal, it should be prepared correctly.  He also knows which cut of meat is which … so he knows a filet doesn’t have fatty bits.
  5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.
    Real men agree – however, they’ll drop their wife off at the door if it’s raining or cold.
  6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.
    A real man will do this for his wife if she forgets because he loves her and likes to pamper her.  He will not, however, do this for his kids as he wants to teach them responsibility.  He will also expect them to always have their phones charged when they’re not at home so they can be reached at his and his wife’s convenience and so they can reach their parents when necessary.
  7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.
    A real man tries to be an accommodating host when he can and doesn’t really judge you by what you drink – as long as you don’t do something stupid like mix 18 year old single-malt Scotch Whisky with Coke.
  8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.
    A real man isn’t pretentious.
  9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.
    Real men know this to be true – and know this is true for sons, as well.
  10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.
    A real man is not defined by such trivialities.
  11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.
    A real man, if he uses Twitter, uses it in whatever manner he wishes.
  12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.
    A real man doesn’t waste anything, if he can help it.
  13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.
    A real man may not even know who or what a Wu-Tang is.
  14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.
    A real man gets the job done and uses whatever tool is best for it.
  15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.
    A real man doesn’t stomp around like a child and doesn’t gratuitously throw in a brand name when describing his clothing – see 8.
  16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.
    A real man also does this and for the same reason.  He will visit upon the intruder an overwhelming degree of violence which will ensure any threat is eliminated, sacrificing himself in the process if necessary.
  17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?
    See 14.  Although, of all the types of kitchen gadgets and tools which exist, one wonders why a modern man would be defined by something so silly as a “melon baller”.
  18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.
    A real man may very well own a shoehorn, but never thought seriously about it.
  19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.
    A real man does this and whatever else he can think of to delight his wife.
  20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.
    Good God, I don’t even know what to say about this.
  21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.
    One would think this would go without saying.
  22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.
    A real man may still receive a newspaper as most real men each adhere to and respect various traditions as they see fit.  However, they don’t go out half-naked.
  23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).
    A real man isn’t defined by his movie collection, although his character is revealed by his library.
  24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.
    A real man ensures he is reachable by those who are important and depend on him, and he never wants his wife to worry.
  25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.
    A real man understands the role firearms have played in our history and is not afraid of them.  While a real man may not own a gun, he respects the rights of those who do.  While owning a gun does not make one a real man, most real men own guns – see 14 and 16.
  26. The modern man cries. He cries often.
    A real man understands there is no shame in crying, but does not cry over the trivial.  He is strong enough to not be emotionally overwhelmed by adversity, but tries to be wise enough to know when his limits are being reached.  See 2.
  27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.
    A real man pursues his passions and seeks excellence – whether it’s dancing or anything else.

Obviously, their list and my responses are entirely subjective.  I do wonder, however, where masculinity is headed.  It seems that our focus has shifted from the substantial to the superficial; we’re more concerned about the appearance than about what lies beneath.

It seems having a big beard is more important than having strength of character.

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Unity and Diversity – Two Sides of the Same Myth (Part Two)

“World unity is the wish of the hopeful, the goal of the idealist and the dream of the romantic. Yet it is folly to the realist and a lie to the innocent.”
– Don Williams, Jr.

 

Last week, I wrote about how when we push for diversity, we end up erasing it.  I believe a similar thing occurs when we speak of unity.  Even as we talk about our desire for unity, we divide ourselves.

Historically, just about every nation has experienced racial and cultural divides.  Often, these have turned into bloody affairs with injustices and atrocities committed by those in power on both sides.

In the United States today, we claim that we want racial unity, however the evidence shows otherwise.  Are you a Mexican-American?  An African-American?  Italian-American?  Irish-American?

If different ethnic groups wanted unity, then they wouldn’t label themselves by their race or nationality.  In doing so, they automatically segregate themselves from the rest of society, creating an “us” versus “them” mentality.

We see this in religion as well.  As a church we want unity… kind of.  One of my all-time favorite jokes was told by the comedian Emo Philips:

“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.   I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

He said, “A Christian.”

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”

He said, “Protestant.”

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”

He said, “Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

I said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

I said, “Die, heretic!”  And I pushed him over.”

I believe the problem comes from our inability to define who we are as individuals.  We are desperate to find some meaningful way by which we can be identified.  Somehow, we have to matter because in our hearts, we need to matter.  So, we pick something about ourselves, and cling to it for dear life.

We then surround ourselves with people who identify themselves as we do, thereby validating our choice in selecting what it is that makes us important.  If we lose that one thing – our religion, our nationality, our skin color… our favorite team, for that matter – we lose our identity, and with it, our value.

It’s seems that we want unity, but only within our own separate little groups.

Unity and Diversity – Two Sides of the Same Myth (Part One)

“I could be wrong, but I believe Diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”
– Ron Burgundy

 

As I write this, the nation is embroiled in a heated battle over who gets to use which restroom. Even our president has weighed in on this all-important issue, threatening to deny funds to our schools if they don’t allow boys to use the girl’s locker room.

(Where was this policy when I was in high school?  I mean, I wasn’t even sure girls were actually ever naked, but I was very, very interested in finding out.)

Of course, the whole thing is absurd.

It has, however, initiated a train of thought which has led me to conclude that unity and diversity, or at least our desire for them, are myths.  Not that this is a conscious thing.  To the contrary, I think people sincerely believe they want unity.  I think people sincerely want to embrace diversity.  However, I don’t think we truly want want either.

A case in point is our current media-induced frenzy about gender self-identification.  The idea here is that we should value diversity by allowing individuals to determine for themselves what gender they are at any given time.  If we force a gender assignment, we are not valuing diversity.

The problem is that it’s not enough for us to recognize or respect the right of someone else to self-identify.  If that were the case, then the push would be for unisex bathrooms.  Instead, we are told we must each sacrifice our own gender identity in the process.  In effect, we are being forced to eliminate gender as an identification.

There can no longer be male or female… rather we are aggressively forced into the foggy world of gender neutrality.

We see this in areas of sexuality, as well.  It is not enough to say, “Men have the right to marry men and women have the right to marry women.”  If that were the case, I think it would be less of an issue.  Instead, you must celebrate the marriage and you must participate in the process, regardless of your own beliefs, if called upon to do so.

When it comes to sexuality, there can only be agreement.  Anything else is unacceptable.

We’re not just stamping out dissenting opinion or beliefs; we’re also eliminating the virtues that come along with achievement.

Kids who naturally excel at athletics are pulled down to the level of the least talented through the virtue of “participation” awards.

Those who have worked hard to get through high school, some of whom have had to overcome learning disabilities in the process, receive the same diploma as the apathetic kid who was passed along from grade to grade in the interest of preserving self-esteem.

In other areas, diversity is celebrated, but only for some.  People are allowed to be proud of their race, unless they’re white.  Religion is to be tolerated and have its flaws forgiven, unless we’re talking about Christianity.

As a society, we’ve been talking about diversity for decades.  There are all kinds of inspirational posters out there that pair inspirational quotes about diversity with pictures of butterflies.  We communicate this image of naturally diverse colors standing out in beauty.

Unfortunately, the image of our reality is that of  a giant blob that reaches out with tentacles to snare the individual and pull him down into the colorless muck below.

An Ethical Dilemma

“But don’t begin until you count the cost.” – Jesus

Recently, I posted the following question on Facebook (I’ve edited it a little here to eliminate some inadvertent ambiguity in the original version.):

“You’re a business owner on your way to a meeting to sign contracts with a new client.  Your company is in trouble and if these contracts aren’t signed, you’ll have to lay off 100 employees. This meeting is your only opportunity to get the contracts signed and if you miss the meeting, you lose the business.

You are walking three blocks away from the meeting when you see a blind man in the middle of a busy intersection. He is confused, lost and it’s only a matter of time before he gets hit by a car. You look around and see that no one is willing to help him. It looks like you’re his only chance at getting to safety.  If you stop to help him you will miss your meeting.

What do you do?”

I received interesting responses.  Most went with saving the blind man.  Some tried to figure out a way to do both.  Some were funny (not yours, Michael) and one person went with saving the jobs.

Regardless of the decision that is made, there is a cost.

If you save the blind man, 100 people and their families will impacted.  Considering how the average person handles their money, this will be a severe hardship for most of those families.

If you ignore the blind man and save the jobs, that man is going to get hit by a car.

The argument was made that the blind man might die.  We don’t know that.  But, he might.  At the same time, economic factors have become an increasing presence in some suicides.

The argument was made that if we save the blind man, God will take care of the jobs.  The reverse argument can also be made.

One person pointed out 400-500 people could be impacted by the job loss and there was no guarantee the blind man would be injured or killed.  She talked about the needs of the many versus the needs of the few.  And her ears aren’t even pointy.

Obviously, my bias goes against saving the blind man.  Why?  There’s no logic to it.  In fact, it makes the least amount of sense.  I agree with my normal-eared friend (for once):  if I’m that business owner, those employees are my responsibility and I can’t let them down.  (I’m not going to bite on the ‘needs of the many’ socialist propaganda bait she threw out there.  She’ll just use it against me in a future argument.)

Even though I believe the meeting should take priority, I’m pretty sure if it were me in that scenario, I’d run out in the middle of traffic and try to save the guy.  Or, at least, I hope I’d have that kind of courage.  And then, I’d hope like hell the new client would give me a second chance.

I’m such a noble guy, right?

No.

Because, if the guy in the middle of the street was a convicted child molester I recognized because I saw him on TV, I’d let him die.

There are times when I do count the cost and then do what doesn’t make sense.  There are other times when I count the cost and do what does make sense.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I just do what I want and don’t count the cost at all.

This is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for God’s grace.  He knows wisdom is a process and He gives me plenty of time to get there.

I’m glad He realizes that I’m a blind man stuck in a busy intersection.

P.S. – It’s okay, Michael.  I thought your response was actually pretty funny.