“We make the path by walking.”
~Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men (1990)
Men, if they are honest, are seeking to learn how to become men. Their fathers and society, in general, have not provided the answer. This problem is at the heart of all of society’s problems. Both men and women know it. And the only comfort we can draw, as men, is that it isn’t our fault as individuals. We are products of our surrounds. We are what society, through our parents, has produced us to be. And our parents were just as much products of their society in their contemporary time.
Man’s Search for Meaning
Not to be confused for other glorious works, the subtitle refers us to the inexplicable mystery of masculinity. Many posit the theory that we lost the vital threads of true masculinity 100 years ago and more. For all the advances that the Industrial Revolution (circa 1800) brought us, it has also, since, meddled vociferously with our psyches.
We, as a society, and as individuals, into the very heart of humankind, have been influenced markedly. We live in a world of remarkable complexity. And the complexities don’t finish at science and technology.
We, by our own industriousness, which verges on palpable greed, have created a beast. This is a beast that renders us impotent, when it was to be the very vehicle to make us omnipotent. Even those that appear most omnipotent are, critically, never more impotent.
We cannot control a world that only God can control.
Our search for meaning has taken us further away from that meaning than ever.
And this has vast impacts for the male psyche. And any significant impact on the male psyche, like this, has potentially devastating effects on the construct for society.
Society, as a noun for harmonious, God-willed communal existence and expression, is dependent to such a large degree on men knowing how to be men, and, never more importantly, on men doing the doing of men.
Untaming the Wild Man Inside
The world has, by and large, both soft and hard men, though contemporary men tend more to be softer than harder. But neither the soft man nor the hard man is in touch with the wild man inside him.
The wild man inside is soft enough to love without effort, yet free enough to live gallantly upon the many challenges that beset us in this life. He has a stoic happiness, and can be true to himself regardless of cost. He can bear all things of reality. He is a model of softly firm strength.
He is something we need to aspire to, for no man is truly there yet.
Being that the world has tamed the modern and postmodern man, it has made him either hard or soft, and oftentimes a mix of both. This conflicted male may be soft when he needs to be hard and hard when he needs to be soft. Yet by no process has he been instructed the right way. By no process has he consistent bearing for model male behaviour. Society has let him down, just as society let his father down, and so on and so forth through the past several generations.
When society has let us down, and we find ourselves in our teens and 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s wondering what to do, we have the option to explore. We need to somehow reconnect with the pre-modern man, with the heroes of past, and with our lost or never-acquainted intimacy with ourselves.
Men, when they are honest, are searching for male identity; for a way of living this life that honours their women, their society, (and if they believe) their God. Society is to blame for the fact we have lost our way. But we have the opportunity, as men, to rediscover the wild man within us. The wild man is characteristically neither hard nor soft, but he is both loving and free; a figure that society needs him to be. And, for us men, this is simply the journey of becoming more and more men.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.