Monday, February 25, 2013

Civilized Manliness

Some years ago, when I was just discovering what a blog was, long before I considered doing a blog myself, I came across a young writer named R. J. Moeller. I only check in there occasionally, but I’ve been glad someone out there is approaching the world after digesting C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton [is it a coincidence, all the initials without names?] This past weekend Andrew Klavan linked to a Moeller piece worth reading; it’s part of a collection of commentary on the social question of why it’s taking so long for young men to grow into men—why the 20s have changed from a time when men accomplished education and embarked on career, marriage, and parenthood into a time of extended adolescence.
The whole series is probably worth considering. It got me thinking about how dependent civilization is on men growing up into men. It’s not something that happens automatically just because time passes in the life of a male. It requires guidance and choice in taking on personal responsibility. Odds of it happening are much higher if there is a father modeling the example. In the absence of such a father, the surrounding family and church community can help make up the deficit with good men volunteering to take an interest in each young man and lead him toward manliness.
Most of what I talk about in the Spherical Model concerning civilization are qualities all people need to develop, not just men. But there are a few that men especially need to work on.
A couple of weeks ago I shared the Boy Scouts’ list of qualities, with their oath and law: honor God, do duty to God, do duty to country, be helpful, be physically strong, be mentally awake, be morally straight, be trustworthy, loyal helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
There isn’t anything in there that woman shouldn’t also develop, but there are some things that might be more natural to women (possibly courteous, clean, reverent).
Over the past few decades, in large part because of women badgering men to this point, we are afraid to talk about gender roles. But here are some biological facts: women give birth to babies; men don't. Growing a baby is harder for some women that others, but there’s a good chance the pregnant mom will be tired, nauseated, sore, mentally foggy, and near the end less and less physically capable. Then she goes through the physically taxing birth, followed by recovery, while adjusting to new life connected to another little human who depends on her. She’s sleep deprived for months (maybe years). She probably has to carefully watch what she eats to make sure she’s providing for herself and the nursing baby; she may have to adjust if what she eats leads to a fussy baby. She may end up spending hours of her day sitting in a chair holding this new little person as part of the baby’s growth process.
Some dads get very involved in helping with their babies. They may spend nighttime hours walking the floor with them and feel sleep deprived as well. They may be willing to change the diapers with the best of moms (although that’s a rare dad). But they can’t provide breast milk. I know there are bottles, but biology didn’t design that as the ideal way. And it’s part of the developing process for a baby to look up into the face of a mother while nursing; changing sides develops both eyes and both sides of the brain in important ways often missed with bottle feeding.
In short, nurturing a baby is essential for mothers, which severely limits how much time and energy a mother can put into being a breadwinner. Anyone who has been through it knows that being a mother to a newborn is such a full-time job that even doing laundry and other basic household tasks is challenging. So it would be wrong for society as a whole, or for men in individual families, to assume that the mother of the children must be required to earn a living wage on top of that responsibility. Some can and do, but it takes an exceptional energy with special circumstances; it isn’t logical to expect that of all mothers.
Old photo of Mr. Spherical Model
doing manly household tasks
That means that not only the newborn child needs a financial supporter, but the mother as well. The father, who is not going through the physical task of growing, birthing, and nursing a baby is the logical person to take on the responsibility. It’s odd that I should have to spell this out, since most people over the millennia of human existence have recognized this as obvious. Civilization depends on men taking on the protecting and providing roles, and men become better, more civilized, when they take on these responsibilities. Anything that fails to lead men to take on these roles is not civilizing.
So, specifically, a young man should learn a strong work ethic. He should learn to plan for his future and his family’s future. He should consider education and training that will allow him to provide a decent living, considering physical and mental labor and personal aptitudes. He should be able to make the connection between what he’s studying, learning, and doing in his youth and how his life and family will benefit later.
He should learn to stand firm for his beliefs. That takes bravery sometimes, but it makes for a good dad. He should learn to enjoy time with others, considering others, even over his own interests or indulgences. Again, these are easier things to learn by example of a manly father than by the Lord of the Flies savagery of youth manipulating and influencing each other without civilizing adult guidance.
A real man will delight in playing with his kids. His recreation will mostly involve doing things with the family rather than getting away from them. He will be patient and understanding with children, while standing firm as he teaches them principles. He might be strong enough to go all the way through his children’s growing up years without ever yelling at them in anger. Talk about manly!
A real man will use clean language around women and children—because he uses clean language always. There is nothing manly about losing control of his mouth. A real man will recognize some built-in tendencies and always turn away from seeing a female not inadequately covered. We don’t observe averted eyes nearly enough anymore, and the need grows greater.
A real man will take his family to church with him. And he will pray with them and read scriptures with them, and talk with them about the ideas they read together, so his children can learn along with him how to apply those principles to life, and to learn to get answers to their prayers.
A real man might know how to shoot a deer and butcher it for the freezer, and might cook a good steak on the grill. But those are individual preferences—like for a woman being able to sew a good quilt or make a lovely scrapbook. Personal preferences but not essential for civilization.
What we need to do, for the sake of civilization, is give more honor to the real men, to lead more young men in that direction, so they can see the value of growing into one.

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