The American Ideal of Manhood isolates and creates competition between men, the root philosophy being “survive of the fittest”, its not surprising so many of our men suffer in silence. Our deaths affirms us being apart of the “unfit” and it was the lack of strength that decides our death. This ideal has no principles in a faith or love for life. My journey to manhood never encouraged appreciation for the world and faith in the people I exist around. I was taught how to dominate my area and create to increase my territory. Money and power was the means to my path and since your father has neither, by the countries standard he is powerless and worthless so your search for examples becomes the ones on the television screen. They merely regurgitate the values that destroyed your father, are attempting to destroy you, and the ones they say they’ve escaped because the money justifies their anxiety and exhaustion. In my realization of the destructiveness of these values, I have had to completely resurrect ancient ideas of long gone civilizations and meet every hour of my life as if it’s my last and its my second chance at living this moment. Very romantic but it is a means of survival.
The people you see on the screen become the goal of emulation and nothing they say can prove they do not live a better life than you. The pressure of your ideal life clashes with potential of the life you live. Abruptly thrown into the expectations of manhood stripping you of what is culturally considered feminine. Then as you grow you attempt to shut down a piece of your humanity through different means sometimes drugs, sex, or even avoiding all attempts at being alone. The conventions that you have sacrificed your life and given your identity fall apart when you sit in solitude, which means you avoid all moments of silence. You will never be caught without music blasting, scrolling on social media, or something playing in the background of your life. Paradoxically this collapse, that happens during silence, is the means of your escape, this is when you run towards freedom and take off the burdens of this profound cultural expectation.
Once these cultural shackles of manhood have fallen off, your journey then becomes about your ability to develop the patience, attention and intimacy required to love. You began to discover the rarity of love and intimacy, by chance and spontaneity you walk into the atmosphere of another person and you desire to love them, however there is always a underlying silence due to your ignorance in loving. This silence is sometimes filled with fear and causes people to repress this profound opportunity. You are a lot like an artist that hasn’t discovered how well they can paint, and must have the courageousness to create on the blank canvas. You have every possibility between you and the canvas, mistakes will be made and no mark can be taken away. Beauty will be found and we learn how to fill the space as authentically and open as possible. For the journey to become a man is inseparable from the development of your ability to love. No different from the journey of the painter or the poet.
“Loving anybody and being loved by anybody is a tremendous danger, a tremendous responsibility,” James Baldwin reflected in his final interview.
We must never stop the fight for individuality and embracing solitude, for it determines your ability to live independently of any culturally destructive influences. Our planetary position is a very lonely one, we are suspended between galaxies within a universe that has no edge. I believe this planetary insecurity is a reflects our individual fear of aloneness and separation. We discovered our independence from God then we discovered our planet is not the center of the universe and we are merely another dot in a universe beyond our comprehension. We have been humbled by our insignificance and in our attempts to reconcile this blow to our ego, nationalism and other illusory identity connections have taken away our ability to connect to one another freely. If we are to improve the lives of our children, we must create new points of connection and redefine what it means to be a man, a woman, an adult and a human.
“An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other,”- Adrienne Rich
In my generation, I watch my peers suffer under the polarization of hyper-positivity and deep invisibility. Our performances are causing us to smoke our lungs away, pop pills to death or never attempt to connect and be honest with one another trying to live to an impossible unhuman standard. The few that do gain some notoriety profiting off the hyper-productivity culture preaches a philosophy only furthering our troubles. How can a way of life be effective when ones “success” is the fall of so many others. We must live long enough and determined enough to become fully realized individuals, putting profit before love is destroying us.
Negative Shame deepens our isolation and feelings of separation making you hide your nakedness from the world and those attempting to become intimate with you. Your nakedness is what connects you to the world, it’s the deepest thing we have in common and since you are shameful of this visibility you can never love anyone nor yourself. It also demands releasing the biggest demon of them all, negative shame. Shame not in the sense of having a conscious, a negative shame that causes you to never attempt healing because of the life you have lived. A shame that makes it impossible to face those that have seen your nakedness. When a child realizes the standards that have nearly killed him are merely arbitrary and disposable, he can go mad unless he is guided through his anger by someone that has gone through the experience himself.
“Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorize, and it can run deep in the fabric of a person,” Olivia Laing observed in her exquisite inquiry into the texture of loneliness in art and life.
The process of becoming a man is not uniform, there is no process or steps to love or safety, however it does demand faith and accountability. The most beautiful souls are the ones that have journeyed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death learned how to with faith, not doubting nor growing weary but holding fast to your belief in the actualization of your potential. Those that have been to the depth of the water and learned to forgive and walk the path to atonement are the ones we need teaching the children. Becoming a man is learning to connect to the inner being of another person, this does not come from a 21 day meditation or wearing those damn crystals but by forgiving your mother and father. By forgiving the rapist and forgiving the world we began to love our most shameful and painful experiences because without them we would be unrecognizably different. We all depend of each other embracing and learning to practice a love ethic.
We can only improve by leaving the uniformity and destructiveness of the expectations of manhood walking through that pain and becoming one with everything around us. We shall see how trivial the walls keeping us disconnected are causing so much loneliness and despair. We will no longer dance between innocence and jadedness, but live with the positive force of acceptance and discernment. We are a new generation of men, we understand like our planet we exist in the universe suspended in space alone, separate but within and apart of something bigger than ourselves. Only within the inner fabric of our being found in the deepest solitude can we integrate the immensely important purpose we have in moving through the feelings of separateness and aloneness. Stripping ourselves of all the bias and oppressive dogma into a sense of self independent of any nation. Our path to manhood is becoming one that embraces a fulness of being, a Yes to Life.
“If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh