Listening to a radio show host today on the way home has got me thinking again about manhood, what it is and what we, as a culture, have done to it. One of my favorite quotes is from Yukiyoshi Takamura, “A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence. He chooses peace. He must be able to make a choice.”
How many times have we seen portrayed in story the brash, over confident young man and the seasoned old man, both learning some things from the other? They are almost stock characters. But there is truth there. What if the young man never finds an older one to teach him how to be a man? What if the hard won wisdom of the old man goes to his grave with him, never passed on to the next generation?
Scratch a bully and you will find a coward. But where does that fear come from? Sit around with a bunch of old soldiers and you can’t help but hear old war stories. You can tell what sort of old soldiers they are by the stories they tell. Fobbits will tell you all about the one time they left the FOB and thought they heard a shot off in the distance. A warrior with real stories will tell you all about how SGT Schmedlap slipped on a used condom and fell flat in a pile of horse shit, but he won’t tell you about the shiny burn scars peeking out of his collar and he sure as hell won’t tell you about the way it feels when you slip a knife between someone’s ribs, the pop of the diaphragm more felt than heard, the warm rush of blood over your knuckles and the halitosis laden death rattle in your face.
Seems to me, whether handling men, women or horses, a real man does what he does from a sense of his own strength. And he gets that strength from having been tested and not found wanting, or, having been found wanting, having been fathered in the right ways by another man.
So, for you young me, don’t despair. Look around for a real man and emulate him. Be willing to work hard, humble enough to accept correction, and confident enough to keep taking a licking and getting back up. And, you older men, be open enough to re-learn what you know with a younger man. Otherwise, we might as well roll over and turn the nation over to Oprah.